Aid for Battered Immigrant Women Ordered by Federal Court

Federal Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the City of New York to stop wrongly denying food stamps, Medicaid and public assistance to destitute legal immigrants in a case known as M.K.B. which was filed by the law firm of Hughes Hubbard & Reed and The Legal Aid Society. The class action alleged that the City and State had failed to train caseworkers to recognize which legal immigrants are eligible for benefits.

Plaintiffs in the M.G. K. case are children, domestic violence survivors and disabled persons. The consequences of the denial of benefits to the plaintiff case were devastating because the destitute women and children were left without money to buy food, cldothing, diapers and other essentials and without any access to medical care. In addition, midprogrammed City and State computers made it almost impossible for caseworkers to provide benefits to some eligible immigrants, even when the caseworkers recognized that the immigrants were eligible.

In his ruling, Federal Judge Rakoff observed: "it is not the policy of the United States, nor of the State of New York, to leave destitute the battered immigrant wives and children of lawful U.S. residents just because their abusive husbands are no longer supporting them." He concluded that these immigrant groups "have fallen between the cracks of New York's welfare system."