The passage of last year's welfare reform legislation, the Personal
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), Pub. L.
104-193, imposed dramatic restrictions on the ability of legal immigrants to
access public benefits. In order for some of the provisions of the law to be
implemented, the Clinton administration is required to interpret a couple of key
definitions in the law. The administration's interpretations are critical
because they will essentially determine whether legal immigrants continue to
have access to a number of critical health and social service programs. In
addition, these interpretations will clarify which health and social service
providers are required to verify immigration status before delivering services.
The administration has released interpretations of some key definitions and is
currently seeking public comment. Of note to community-based service providers
is that the Department of Justice (attorney general's office) is charged with
developing a list of "unrestricted federal benefits" -- programs that will not
require certification of immigration status before services are administered.
We urge you to submit comments on this list and to encourage others in the
HIV/AIDS advocacy and immigration rights communities to do the same.
The following provides an overview of the "unrestricted federal benefits" definition and suggestions for comments. We have also included instructions for accessing the Federal Register notice (if you do not have Internet access, please contact AIDS Action for a fax copy).
Department of Justice/Attorney General's List of Unrestricted Federal Benefits
(Deadline for comments: November 14, 1997)
The attorney general has been charged with creating a list of programs that
would be exempt from the requirements of the welfare reform law and for which
undocumented individuals would remain eligible to receive services. Service
providers for programs on this list will not have to check the immigrant status
of clients. All other federal benefit programs will.
The programs on the list must be non-means-tested, federally funded community
programs and services that are necessary for the protection of life or safety.
Specifically, these programs must:
- deliver in-kind services at the community level (through either public
or private non-profit agencies);
- provide assistance (or the cost of assistance) without requiring
documentation of an individual recipient's income or resources; and
- provide services that are necessary for the protection of life or
In August, the attorney general released the following provisional list of
unrestricted federal benefits and programs that are exempt from the welfare law:
- Short-term homeless shelters
- Soup kitchens, community food banks, and nutrition programs
- Violence prevention programs
- Medical and public health services, including prevention and treatment
of diseases and treatment for mental illness and substance abuse
- "Any other programs, services, and assistance necessary for the
protection of life and safety"
The attorney general is now calling on community-based organizations, state and local governments, and federal agencies to comment on the need to include other programs.
Submit your comments to the attorney general before the November 14 deadline.
Argue that HIV/AIDS-related programs and services must be provided to clients
without proof of citizenship. Programs that should be included in the exemption
list include all Ryan White-funded programs, HIV prevention programs, Housing
Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA), and McKinney Homeless Assistance
programs. Some of these programs, such as HOPWA, may have some income
requirements for the provision of services.
In your comments, it is critical that you:
- stress the importance of these programs as components of a comprehensive
strategy to control the epidemic and to protect the life and safety of the
members of your community;
- acknowledge the eventual economic impact that would result from refusing
any individual access to these essential services (the earlier health care is
provided, the better); and
- emphasize the burden it would place on your agency's staff to check the
immigration status of each client and his or her family. This could also
jeopardize the relationship of trust between service provider and community --
especially critical in promoting prevention and anonymous testing.
Your comments must also include the name of any law that governs the
administration of the program you are addressing. For example, you might state
that the services provided by your agency are administered under Title I (II,
III, IV, V) of the Ryan White CARE Act, which is funded through the Health
Resources and Services Administration. For housing services, refer to the
Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program or McKinney programs funded through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. For HIV prevention programs, refer to the Division of HIV/STD/TB Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you have questions regarding the attorney general's list of "unrestricted
federal benefits," please call Javier Salazar at (202) 986-1300, extension 3051.
Deadline for comments: November 14, 1997. Please mail your comments to:
Wendy L. Patten, Counsel
Office of Policy Development
Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530
To access the Federal Register notice on-line:
- go to: http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.html
- For the specification of community programs necessary for protection of
life and safety under welfare reform legislation, enter: the date: "8/30/96" and
- For the request for comment on specifications, enter: the date "9/15/97"
and "page 48308"