National Council on Disability Document Archive

Latest on immigrants with disabilities

Posted by: Jamal Mazrui
Date Mailed: Wednesday, July 30th 1997 02:12 PM

07/25/97 -- Copyright (C) 1997 The Washington Post [Article 289574, 43 lines]

                  Welfare Reform Act Upheld in Federal Court
                 Ruling Allows Aid Cuts To Infirm Legal Aliens
     A federal judge today issued the first ruling upholding the
constitutionality of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that cuts off benefits to
most legal resident aliens who are aged, poor or disabled.
     U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan of the Southern District of New York
said that while the act imposes a severe hardship on aliens, Congress had the
authority to enact the law on Aug. 22, 1996.
     "Under our Constitution . . . the responsibility for making judgments
such as these rests principally with Congress. It is in Congress that this
troublesome situation must be addressed," he said.
     Kaplan said if Congress does not act to restore benefits, the
consequences are likely to include evictions, homelessness and the inability
to pay medical expenses. The judge said it would also shift a substantial
financial burden to New York City.
     The ruling throws out most claims filed by the city and plaintiffs
representing 10,000 aliens in New York, Connecticut and Vermont who had sued
the federal government over the act.
     They had argued that the law improperly discriminates between citizens
and permanent resident aliens in violation of the due process clause of the
Fifth Amendment.
     A similar challenge has been argued in San Francisco federal court and is
awaiting decision.
     Nancy Chang, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which
represented some of the plaintiffs, said she expects the ruling will be
     For many years legal aliens who were poor, blind, disabled or aged were
entitled to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and food stamps. The
1996 act cuts off benefits to the vast majority of those aliens. Benefits to
most of those previously receiving help are scheduled to end on Sept. 30.
     However, there is legislation now moving through Congress as part of the
balanced budget bill that would continue SSI to some legal aliens.
     Republicans have offered to continue SSI disability benefits to legal
immigrants who were on the rolls when the welfare law was signed Aug. 22,
1996. Immigrants in the country before that date but not receiving SSI would
be eligible for the first seven years they were in the country.
     The Clinton administration wants to go beyond that offer to ensure that
immigrants who become disabled in the future would be eligible for SSI.
     Neither the White House nor Republicans are moving to continue food
stamps. The cutoff of nutrition aid is expected to affect about 1 million
legal immigrants.

07/26/97 -- Copyright (C) 1997 The Washington Post [Article 289678, 67 lines]

              GOP Agrees to Restore Disabled Immigrants' Benefits
                                By Eric Pianin
                         Washington Post Staff Writer
     Republican negotiators gave in to the White House yesterday in agreeing
to restore welfare coverage for legal immigrants who become disabled, marking
the first real sign of progress in negotiations of a final balanced budget and
tax cut package.
     With time running out before a scheduled August congressional recess next
weekend, GOP and administration officials abruptly picked up the pace of their
talks yesterday.
     "We're making enormous tangible progress," said Senate Budget Committee
Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.). "We're getting closer every minute." House
Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said the two sides were trying to wind up their
talks "in the next two or three days."
       "There are plans to finish the entire package" today, a spokeswoman for
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) told reporters last night.
        Republicans also agreed to scrap a measure, opposed by the White
House, that would have allowed states to reduce special supplemental payments
to elderly individuals receiving disability benefits and to restore Medicaid
benefits for about 30,000 children who would have lost coverage next year
under the year-old welfare law.
     Senior administration officials, including Treasury Secretary Robert E.
Rubin, White House Chief of Staff Erskine B. Bowles, and budget director
Franklin D. Raines, spent the day moving in and out of meetings in the Capitol
with GOP and Democratic leaders in search for a compromise on a wide range of
spending and tax issues.
     Both sides agreed that while substantial progress was made on spending
issues, differences over taxes remain much harder to bridge. As one indication
of the heightened seriousness of the talks, police blocked access by reporters
to the hallway leading to a meeting room on the third floor of the Capitol
where the tax issues were being negotiated, and as the day wore on the size of
the meeting was scaled back dramatically in an effort to minimize the rhetoric.
     The dispute over welfare coverage for legal immigrants was among a dozen
thorny issues separating the White House and congressional Republicans. A
budget accord struck by the two sides last spring called for restoring
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for legal immigrants who were in the United
States as of Aug. 22 or who become disabled in the future. Those benefits were
wiped out by the 1996 welfare reform legislation, a move that both sides
agreed was too harsh.
   But while the Senate approved the changes as part of its balanced budget
plan, the House did not -- triggering charges that Republicans had reneged on
their agreement. Yesterday, House GOP leaders finally backed down and agreed
to go along with the Senate language, according to House and Senate GOP aides.
     Among the dozen or so tough issues still remaining are whether to extend
the benefits of a $500-per-child tax credit to working poor families that pay
no income tax -- as the White House favors but the GOP opposes -- and whether
Republicans will prevail in indexing for inflation any reduction in the
capital gains tax, a measure the president claims will drain the Treasury and
has threatened to veto.
     There are also major differences over the extent of educational tax
credits, workplace protections for welfare recipients who take government
subsidized jobs, and the size of an experimental medical savings account as
part of the Medicare program.
     A "wild card" in the talks is a proposal to increase the cigarette tax by
20 cents per pack to increase spending on health care for low income children
-- a move favored by the White House and Senate Republicans but opposed by
House GOP leaders. One possible compromise would be to insert the tobacco tax
increase in the balanced budget legislation rather than the tax cut bill,
according to congressional aides. In that way, members from tobacco-growing
states could vote against the budget plan while voting for the tax cut.
     Meanwhile, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (N.Y.) and the eight other Senate
Finance Committee Democrats unhappy over the drift of the talks urged Clinton
and GOP leaders to put off a decision until September. The Democrats cautioned
in a letter to Clinton that "a false sense of urgency" brought on by the
coming August recess "could lead to hasty compromises on issues of importance
to Democrats and to the American people."

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