CHN: Humanitarian Immigrants to Receive Extension of SSI Benefits

On September 30, President Bush penned into law a long-awaited extension of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits for refugees and other immigrants here on humanitarian grounds. The bill (H.R. 2608), which originated in the House, passed that chamber in July 2007. However, it was not until August of this year, with some slight modifications, that the bill received the Senate’s approval. H.R. 2608 then went back to the House and on September 17 Representatives agreed by voice vote to the Senate’s amendments and cleared the bill for the White House.
Under the new law, effective October 1, eligible elderly immigrants and persons with disabilities will be able to receive at least two additional years of benefits. Those who have a pending naturalization application at the end of the two-year extension will be able to receive a third year of benefits. The new law will bring relief to thousands of humanitarian immigrants whose benefits have expired or were set to expire, and for whom SSI is their basic means of support.

In 1996 a seven-year time limit for SSI benefits was imposed on humanitarian immigrants. It was assumed that seven years would give individuals sufficient time to naturalize, and thereby maintain their benefits. However, processing delays and other obstacles in the immigration system have made it nearly impossible for people to naturalize within the seven-year time period, resulting in a major loss of income for this vulnerable population.

Humanitarian immigrants include refugees, asylees, Cuban and Haitian entrants, Amerasians, victims of human trafficking, and persons who cannot return to their home countries for fear of persecution.

For details on who may be eligible for the extension please see the National Immigration Law Center’s fact sheet: .

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