RESOLUTION SUPPORTING THE EXTENSION OF SSI BENEFITS TO
REFUGEES AND HUMANITARIAN IMMIGRANTS
 
WHEREAS, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 ("Welfare Reform Act") restricted legal immigrants' access to public benefits including the Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI), a program for the disabled, blind and elderly;
 
WHEREAS, the Philadelphia Bar Association, in a resolution dated September 28, 1995, opposed federal legislation unfairly restricting the provision of public benefits to those in need and specifically noted that such restrictions to law-abiding, tax-paying legal immigrants were in violation of their constitutional rights;
 
WHEREAS, while there has been a partial restoration of benefits to refugees and humanitarian immigrants such as Cuban-Haitian entrants, eligibility is limited to their first seven years in the United States unless they become U.S. citizens;
 
WHEREAS, a combination of immigration backlogs, processing delays, statutory caps on the number of those granted political asylum who can obtain lawful permanent residence (a pre-requisite to obtaining citizenship), as well as language and other barriers, have made it impossible for many of these vulnerable immigrants to naturalize within seven years;
 
WHEREAS, it is estimated that over 1,500 refugees and humanitarian immigrants lost their SSI benefits in 2003, and that in the coming years as many as 9,000 elderly and disabled humanitarian immigrants will become ineligible for SSI benefits.  Over 20,000 refugees along are expected to lose benefits by the year 2010;
 
WHEREAS, local legal services and non-profit organizations who aid refugees and immigrants report that a growing number of refugees, including those who are blind, who suffered strokes, and who rely on SSI for critical income supports are being terminated from SSI benefits because they have not been able to naturalize within seven years;
 
WHEREAS, the humanitarian immigrants who are losing benefits are among the most vulnerable populations, have experienced life-long discrimination and persecution, war, civil conflict and threats to their well being in their native countries;
 
WHEREAS, bi-partisan legislation in the United States Senate, Senate Bill 2623, and a companion bill in the House of Representatives, H.R. 4035 have been introduced to extend eligibility for refugees and other humanitarian immigrants for a total of nine (9) years;
 
WHEREAS, Senator Specter has become a co-sponsor of S. 2623, joining in the effort to extend SSI benefits to refugees and humanitarian immigrants.
 
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Philadelphia Bar Association urges the enactment of S. 2623 and H.R. 4035 as a partial solution to extending public benefits to legal immigrants.
 
AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Chancellor is authorized to communicate the Association's support of the extension of refugee and humanitarian immigrants' SSI benefits and to take all steps necessary to implement this resolution.

PHILADELPHIA BAR ASSOCIATION
BOARD OF GOVERNORS
ADOPTED: SEPTEMBER 30, 2004