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Issue Alert - Immigration Status Verification and Reporting (BEM 225)

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Date:

Sep 27, 2011

Program Area:

All

Issue Summary:

BEM 225 as well as federal civil rights law and policy controls and strictly limits the circumstances in which the Department of Human Services (DHS) may contact the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to report suspected lack of legal immigration status. Earlier this year, DHS staff were trained that BEM 225 would be changed effective October 1 to allow reporting based on oral answers and admissions. The policy has not been changed, but some DHS staff may now believe that they are newly empowered to make reports.

Persons Affected:

Eligible applicants in households with ineligible noncitizens.

For More Information:

Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, 3030 S. 9th St. Suite 1A, Kalamazoo, MI 49009; (269) 492-7198 or 1-800-968-4046


Background

BEM 225 as well as federal civil rights and privacy law and policy limit inquiry into the immigration status and social security numbers of non-applicant household members of applicants. BEM 225 also states the following: “The local office must complete a [Department of Homeland Security] referral after determining that a member of the applicant or recipient group is ineligible because his presence in the U.S. is unlawful. A person is in the U.S. unlawfully only if either: • A final order of deportation is presented during the eligibility or redetermination process. • A determination of ineligibility based on immigration status was made and the action by DHS was upheld in an administrative hearing, and the hearing determination of unlawful presence is supported by a determination by [the Department of Homeland Security] or the executive office of immigration review, such as a formal order of deportation. Note: The absence of proof of legal residence, a determination of a person’s ineligibility, or a group member’s statement regarding illegal residence does not meet the conditions of unlawful residence in the U.S. so does not require notification to [the Department of Homeland Security].”

What's Happening?

Earlier this year, many DHS staff stated at numerous community meetings that beginning October 1, a new policy would be in place that would require reporting to the Department of Homeland Security (ICE) in many more circumstances. Advocates later obtained a copy of a DHS training presentation slide which stated, “For FAP [Food Assistance Program] and SER [State Emergency Relief], any time a client tells DHS that the client or anyone else in their home is an illegal alien, the illegal alien has to be reported to homeland security.” Fear of this policy change has spread rapidly through immigrant communities. DHS has indicated in correspondence with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center that on September 9, 2011, an email was sent to DHS management which, “stated that the power point was not correct and further requested all Directors and District Managers to please have all staff discard the power point.” It is not clear whether or not that correspondence made specific reference to the immigration-related slide in the presentation. Advocates have received reports since September 9, 2011, of applicants and non-applicants being warned or intimidated with respect to immigration enforcement when applying for various forms of benefits at DHS (not limited to FAP and SER) that reporting to ICE would begin on October 1.

What Should Advocates Do?

Advocates should seek confirmation from their local DHS leadership that all staff have been trained that BEM 225 remains in effect and continues to strictly limit the circumstances in which ICE may be contacted. Advocates should share community education materials informing non-applicant household members of their right to refuse to provide immigration status or social security number information.

What Should Clients Do?

Anyone who is requested to provide information about non-applicants that is not required by BEM 225 or who is threatened or warned of immigration consequences by DHS should contact the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center at (269) 942-7196 or 1-800-968-4046.

Finding Help

Anyone who is requested to provide information about non-applicants that is not required by BEM 225 or who is threatened or warned of immigration consequences by DHS should contact the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center at (269) 942-7196 or 1-800-968-4046. Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate various sources of legal and related services, including the free legal aid office that serves your county, at MichiganLegalAid.org. You can also look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.