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The President's Proposal to Extend SSI Eligibility For Refugees and Other Humanitarian Immigrants

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Publication Date: February 2004

Publisher(s): Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Washington, D.C.)

Author(s): Shawn Fremstad

Funder(s): Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Washington, D.C.)

Funder(s): Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Washington, D.C.)

Special Collection: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Topic: Population and demographics (Immigrants and aliens)

Keywords: Economic inequality; Income diversity; Economic projections; Senior citizen

Type: Report


Many elderly and disabled refugees, asylees, and Cubans and Haitians with refugee-like status — all of whom have fled persecution, often including violence and torture, in their home counties — are subject to a provision in the 1996 welfare law that limits their eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to their first seven years in the United States unless they are able to become naturalized citizens. SSI benefits constitute the sole source of income for most of these individuals, who are generally unable to work and rarely eligible for Social Security or other retirement benefits. According to estimates by the Social Security Administration (SSA), as of September 30, 2003, more than 1,500 refugees were ineligible for SSI because of the limit and several thousand more will likely lose SSI eligibility this year.