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In an unsurprising move, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has announced that it will back a lawsuit by a coalition of a group of asylum seekers against the state of Maine for welfare benefits they claim are owed for food and housing.

At issue are new rules issued by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services limiting eligibility for what is called “general assistance” in that state to only those immigrants who are “lawfully present,” in the United States, as defined by federal law, or who have applied for asylum.

The coalition of non-lawfully present immigrants and the ACLU claim that the rule runs contrary to a state law, and Alain Nahimana, the coordinator of The Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, said the group has planned to file suit.

Nahimana was an asylum seeker himself when he came to the U.S. from Burundi in 2010.

The dispute arises from the decision of the state department to manage reimbursements to cities and counties that provide assistance to immigrants for a period of two years by requiring that the applicants meet the “lawfully present” requirement.

Challengers, including the ACLU, are afraid the rule will leave some asylum seekers without the basics after they arrive in the U.S.

Maine’s two largest cities, Portland and Lewiston, have seen a large increase in the numbers of immigrants arriving from Africa to settle in the area, and Joby Thoyalil, a policy analyst with Maine Equal Justice Partners, says the rule impacts about 100 immigrants in Portland, alone.

A spokeswoman for the State of Maine said the rules were within its discretion, but the ACLU has achieved some success in suing municipalities on immigrant issues.

A city ordinance in Hazleton, Pennsylvania fining landlords for renting to illegal aliens and employers from hiring them was struck down before it was even implemented with the city facing a possible court order to pay the ACLU’s legal fees for the challenge in the amount of $2.8 million.

Source: Washington Times


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