Public Benefits

Paul was a refugee in the U.S. He applied for Unemployment Insurance Benefits but was denied benefits. Paul had provided a valid California Driver’s license and an unrestricted social security card, which satisfied the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) documents requirement for an alien to work in the U.S. Despite this proof, the California Employment Development (EDD) Department denied Paul’s application for benefits because he did not provide what EDD felt was proof of satisfactory immigration status as requested. In addition, even though Paul provided his alien registration number thereafter, EDD did not reopen his case nor check with the USCIS to see if he was authorized to work in the U.S. Paul could not read or understand the Notice from EDD denying his application. However, with the help of a refugee assistance agency, he filed a late appeal challenging the denial of Unemployment Insurance benefits.

At the hearing, although the Administrative Law Judge found that Paul had good cause to file a late appeal, the Administrative Law Judge denied benefits again because he felt that Paul lacked authorization to work in the U.S. Paul was then referred to the Asian Law Alliance. ALA filed an appeal with the Unemployment Insurance Benefits Appeal Board. Paul’s appeal was again denied. ALA, together with the Bay Area Legal Aid, filed a Writ of Mandamus in Superior Court challenging Paul’s denial of Unemployment Insurance Benefits because he clearly met the requirements of the USCIS Form I-9, which outlines the necessary documents needed for a noncitizen to work in the United States. Moreover, ALA provided proof that a refugee has employment authorization incident to his/her status.

The California Employment Development Department agreed to settle the matter by granting Paul’s retroactive unemployment insurance benefits and agreeing to a policy notice that requires EDD to re-open a case and contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to confirm whether an immigrant has work status when he/she provides the EDD with evidence of immigration status, such as an alien registration number, even if the immigrant provides this information late.

As a result of the effective representation in this matter, EDD also issued a clarification memo to all offices throughout the State of California to clarify refugee eligibility for Unemployment Insurance benefits.

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