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Issue Alert - 02-05-03

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Date:

May 10, 2002

Issue Summary:

FIA is limited on what information it can ask for and when it can contact INS about undocumented non-citizens

Persons Affected:

Immigrants applying at FIA for help for family members

For More Information:

Center for Civil Justice320 S. Washington, 2nd Floor Saginaw, MI 48607 (989) 755-3120, (800)724-7441 Fax: (989) 755-3558E-mail: info@ccj-mi.org


Background

All programs except CDC*

What's Happening?

FIA has updated their policy and procedures outlining when FIA is required to report to the INS an alien who is in the United States illegally. Previous manual policy lead caseworkers to believe that they could or should be contacting IRS when they did not receive documents for all the family members, even if assistance was requested only for some of the family members, e.g. U.S. Citizen children. FIA has also made it clear that social security numbers are not required of persons who are not requesting assistance for themselves. *In the case of CDC, FIA may seek information on immigration status and social security numbers only for the children for whom care will be provided and not for any other family or household members.

What is the new rule?

An FIA employee is only required to notify INS of an immigrant’s illegal status if he or she “knows” that the immigrant is in the country illegal. There are only 2 circumstances outlined in the manual when a case worker “knows” of an immigrant’s illegal status. 1. If the caseworker receives a “Final Order of Deportation” during the eligibility or redetermination process; OR 2. If a determination of ineligibility based on immigration status was made; and FIA’s action was upheld in an administrative hearing and the hearing determination of unlawful presence is supported by a determination by the INS or the Executive Office of Immigration Review, such as a Formal Order of Deportation.FIA caseworkers may not report aliens to the INS if the only evidence is : - There is no proof of legal residence, - a determination of a person’s ineligibility by FIA or INS that is not covered by items 1 and 2 above - a statement from a group member referring to their residence status - the client or representative agreed that a group member is in the United States unlawfully- information received from another agency that a group member is here unlawfully

Who has to provide social security numbers?

Caseworkers are not allowed to require someone who is not requesting assistance for themselves to provide a social security number as a condition of assistance for other family members. The new policy states that caseworkers are not to tell people that they will be reported to the INS if they refuse to provide their social security number or immigration status to FIA. The only penalty FIA can give a person for refusing to provide their social security number is disqualification for aid. For each family member for whom a SSN is not provided, FIA may disqualify that person from receiving Food Assistance (Food Stamp) Program benefits, Family Independence Program, and State Medical Program. That individual may qualify for Medicaid only for emergencies.

What Should Advocates Do?

1. Inform organizations who work with immigrants about the new policy. It may be useful to confer with supervisors at the local FIA to make sure they and their staff understand and will be following the policy. 2. If advocates are hearing about improper questions or actions by local FIA workers, they should refer to their local legal services office. The Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Program, Farmworker Legal Services, and the Center for Civil Justice have all monitoring the implementation of the new policy. Migrant farmworker advocates and their documented clients who need more information or help are encouraged to contact Farmworker Legal Services at 1-800-968-4046. Undocumented migrant workers or their advocates may contact the Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance program in Grand Rapids, Michigan at 616-454-4055.

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services office handle these type of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate the "free" legal services or legal aid office that serves your county on the Michigan Legal Assistance Network website (http://www.mlan.net/locate.html) or look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738