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I hope this finds you and your loved ones safe and well. The past several weeks have been difficult for everyone, and know that we at the African Resources Center International (ARCI) are thinking of you.
Note: In this article and in other pages you will find blue underlined words (links) where you can click to access more detailed information on the topic at hand to enhance your learning and understanding of the material and to provide you with resources for your own support when necessary.
The resource below provide some education to Immigrants and members of refugee community on the subject of Unemployment Insurance. Also, do not forget to visit our products page to see what other resources are available for you. And our free resources page.
Allow me to make a brief observation here before continuing with our subject of Immigrants and UI.
Many programs and agencies providing support and services to the public right now are grappling with the impact of COVID19, and we are no exception. However, as we continue to monitor the changes brought about by Covid-19 ARCI will continue to support members of our community during these challenging and uncertain times.
We are committed to serving you- and keeping you informed is our top priority, especially during these trying times.
Our analysis of the subject at hand of Immigrant & Unemployment Insurance benefit ((UI) is part of serving you especially at a time like this. UI is one of the benefits that a lot of people are tapping into during cancelled days’ work that many workers are experiencing right now.
Let’s dive in together in this current subject.
The answer is yes, but Immigrants have to overcome two hurdles. (1) They must meet the same state requirements as everyone else. (2) And according to federal law, immigrant workers must further qualify by belonging to one of the immigration categories approved for unemployment insurance.
States determine whether individuals are eligible for benefits based on several eligibility requirements.
#1. They must be unemployed through no fault of their own.
#2. They must have enough wages earned or hours worked to establish a claim.
#3. They must be available and searching for work and cannot refuse any “suitable” work.
My Tip:States are required to make it possible for everyone to access unemployment benefits which includes facilitating interpretation and translation for individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). This policy is designed to better enforce and implement an existing obligation: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits recipients of federal financial assistance from discriminating based on national origin by, among other things, failing to provide meaningful access to individuals who are limited English proficient (LEP).
One thing I have often noted though and the reason I put together (an Immigrant resource book) that shows you how to address various subjects yourself – saving yourself a lot of money- is that, many legal qualified immigrants’ workers fail to apply for Unemployment insurance because they confuse it with welfare benefits. And hence they don’t access this benefit for fear of becoming a public charge. Being a public charge means being dependent on government assistance in order to pay for the costs of living.
My Tip: Unemployment Benefits” denotes that this Person has already been working in the US and has recently been laid off. Unemployment benefits should not be mixed up with Welfare benefits or Temporary disability benefits. One can receive Unemployment Benefits with a PR or EAD
TIP: Some UI requirements are currently waved in many cities that are on lock down because of the impact of COVID-19 epidemic. Check with your local workforce center to understand your situation better.
All legal workers Qualify for UI
According to the National Employment Law Project, anyone who has worked in the United States, including immigrants, is eligible to receive state-administered unemployment benefits.
Immigrants and members of refugee community are eligible for UI as long as they are in America legally and satisfy Federal categories to qualify for unemployment Insurance in addition to the State requirements highlighted above.
Undocumented and Drawing Unemployment
It’s not that there are no cases of individuals who fall in the category of illegal immigrants or undocumented group that apply for unemployment using the same information they use for seeking employment. But it’s a risk that many are not willing to take and rightly so, because it might hurt or affect their eligibility for naturalization: for example, by casting doubt on their showing of good moral character and hence becoming inadmissible.
If you have read Want to Live in America: Your Pathway to Legal Status, a book I have done everything I can to make it affordable and accessible – (shows you how to address and handle various immigration subjects yourself – saving you tons of money) – you realize that, eligibility for naturalization is something to think about ahead of time and plan accordingly If you plan to become a U.S citizen in the future. This is because you don’t want to create or allow a situation that might cause USCIS to decide that you do not have “good moral character,” which could result in a denial of your application for naturalization. Good moral character is a requirement for naturalization.
But don’t confuse unemployment benefits with public charge which can cause someone to fall in that category of inadmissible to the United States and ineligible to become a lawful permanent resident that is tied to some status of Green card application. The main reason is that you do not have to show that you are “admissible” to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. Remember, public charge means being dependent on government assistance in order to pay for the costs of living. That’s why, if you immigrated through family, you had to have a financial sponsor to prevent you from depending on government assistance in order to pay for the costs of your living for example, and hence become a public charge.
There is, however, no “public charge” bar to receiving naturalization in the United States. Note also that: it’s not all status of green card holders that are affected by public charge immigration policy.
TIP: Many Immigration attorneys will tell you that, as long as you received the public benefits lawfully (without using fraud, for example), it will not hurt or affect your eligibility for naturalization in any way.
If you think though that you received benefits when you shouldn’t have (which can happen sometimes unknowingly), talk to an attorney about whether you qualify for U.S. citizenship before completing your application. For example, many U.S. government agencies that provide public assistance require that you let them know if you are going to be outside of the country for 30 days or more at a time. Under these circumstances, they will stop paying benefits to you. Since some people do not know about this requirement, they often receive benefits they are ineligible to receive because they are not in the United States. One example would be food stamps. If you did not receive public benefits illegally or improperly, however, your receipt of public benefits will not affect your chances of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen.
(Source: nolo.com legal encyclopedia)
TIP: If you are in a search for an immigration attorney ARCI has unvetted suggested list of lawyers for legal representation referrals.
Undocumented Immigrants and U.S Workers’ Rights
Research shows that, undocumented workers have the same rights in terms of minimum wage pay and other labor laws including unpaid overtime and back pay.
Believe it or not, individuals within the category of illegal immigrants are eligible for workers’ compensation, even when they are not approved for unemployment insurance. Labor standards laws still apply to individuals categorized as illegal aliens, such as the minimum wage, hours of labor or prevailing wage on public construction projects. But many people are unaware of these labor standards, or they are not sure how to ask about them or they are outright not interested with them because of many other factors.
According to Pew Research Center the number of undocumented immigrants account for 5% of the American workforce, and it’s unavoidable that some of these employees will get injured on the job. And many times, out of fear of retaliation based on their immigration status, these injuries go unreported and the financial burden is left on the shoulders of undocumented workers and their families.
William H. Beaumont, an attorney who handles worker’s rights and worker’s compensations in Chicago stated that “Fear of retaliation is the # 1 motivator keeping these types of incidences from being reported. In these and many other situations it is imperative for you if you find yourself in undocumented immigrant category to consult with a worker’s compensation attorney experienced with undocumented and/or unauthorized employees if you feel that you need help. If you feel you or a loved one are questioning what rights, you have – contact your state bar association for help with your situation.
TIP: Being paid under the table is a non-factor in making sure you are being treated with dignity and that your rights are being upheld.
Remember that, undocumented workers are due the same protections for wages and overtime pay as their documented counterparts as outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
NOTE: This site is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. But- If you are in a search for an immigrationattorney ARCI maintains unvetted suggested list of lawyers for referral purposes only.
If you are an attorney, therapist or a service provider who would like to offer your services to immigrants and refugees email me with your contact information at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put your name on this list.