The President's Proposal to Extend SSI Eligibility For Refugees and Other Humanitarian Immigrants
Publication Date: February 2004
Author(s): Shawn Fremstad
Special Collection: John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
Keywords: Economic inequality; Income diversity; Economic projections; Senior citizen
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.