Legal Aid Successfully Challenged Policy Holding Sponsors Of Immigrants On Public Assistance Liable For Benefits; Policy Discontinued With The Support Of NYC Council And de Blasio Administration
THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2014

The Legal Aid Society has successfully challenged a policy that sought to hold sponsors of immigrants on public assistance liable for the immigrants’ benefits. With the support of the New York City Council and the deBlasio Administration the policy has been discontinued. New York was the only municipality in the nation to have such a policy.

The Legal Aid Society and Latham & Watkins filed a lawsuit challenging this policy in April 2013 on behalf of a sponsor whose elderly, disabled mother was receiving benefits at a time that her daughter, the sponsor, was unemployed (Pelegrin v. Doar). The City Council intervened in the case to challenge the policy. The City of New York discontinued the policy in February 2014. The parties filed a settlement that, among other provisions, requires that the policy be withdrawn and provides relief for the over 200 sponsors who had already paid the City close to one million dollars pursuant to this policy.

“We are pleased for New York City to be rid of the ill-conceived and punitive policy and are grateful that this administration agrees,“ said Susan Welber, a Staff Attorney in the Civil Practice’s Law Reform Unit. “This will have a big impact on elderly immigrants especially, whose only means of support are often subsistence benefits. Such immigrants will no longer be deterred for fear that their family members will end up being charged thousands of dollars that they cannot afford to pay.” Sumani Lanka, also a Staff Attorney, represented the plaintiffs.

Elizabeth Marks and Thomas Giblin, attorneys at Latham & Watkins, represented plaintiffs in the case. Mr. Giblin said: “We are excited to have reached this agreement with the City of New York and to have put this policy to rest, not only for our own client but also for the hundreds of immigrants and sponsors who have been impacted, as well as those who would have been impacted in the future. As pro bono counsel, it is always gratifying to find common ground as we did here.”