Legal Aid Immigrant Disability Benefit Project
A four-way partnership between our firm, the Legal Aid Society, the New
York Legal Assistance Group and the Greater Upstate Law Project produced
a resounding court victory for impoverished, elderly and disabled immigrants
who were no longer eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) assistance.
The legal immigrants initiated the action after Congress determined that
SSI benefits would be distributed to disabled immigrants, including refugees
and asylees, for only seven years. Long delays and onerous requirements, however,
prevented many immigrants from naturalizing before losing their SSI benefits,
causing a reduction of their monthly incomes and making it difficult for
them to afford rent, utilities and other basic necessities.
The court held that the State’s refusal to meet the needs of those elderly
and disabled immigrants violates New York’s constitution, which requires
New York State to meet the basic needs of all of its indigent residents
regardless of immigration status. The court further concluded that treating
elderly and disabled immigrants more harshly than other elderly and disabled
residents violates the Equal Protection Clause of the US and New York State
Legal Aid’s continuing ability to answer such needs was ensured in part
by an effort spearheaded by Weil Gotshal in 2004 to save the organization
from financial collapse. Our team dedicated over 1,400 hours to restructuring
the entire Legal Aid organization, avoiding closure of its 18 offices that
serve 300,000 poor people every year.