Congress Offers SIVs Same Benefits Available to Refugees

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Before dawn this morning, the U.S. Senate convened in a snowstorm and passed by a vote of 88-10 a bill authorizing money for next year’s defense spending.

When the President signs this year’s Defense Appropriations bill into law, thousands of Iraqi SIVs will have cause to celebrate. That’s because the bill eliminates the disparity between federal public benefits available to SIVs and those available refugees.
Until now, SIVs have been eligible for roughly the same assistance as refugees during their first 6-8 months in the United States. Under current law, however, most SIVs become ineligible for federal public benefits at the end of their eighth month in the United States. This ineligibility continues for five years. By contrast, refugees, asylees, immigrants who are spared deportation under the Convention Against Torture, and Cuban or Haitian entrants are not subject to the so-called “five-year bar.”
This morning’s bill eliminates the 5-year bar for our Iraqi and Afghan SIV allies. Specifically, it makes Iraqi and Afghan SIVs eligible for federal public benefits “to the same extent, and for the same periods of time, as refugees.” (.pdf p.119)
Special thanks are in order to Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), who apparently got this change added on July 30, 2009, (see “Congress Expands…”), and to all other elected officials, staff, and advocates who helped make this vital change a reality.

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