The plaintiffs filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of some 50,000 aliens, humanitarian refugees and asylees who had lost or were at risk of losing their Social Security supplemental security income (SSI) benefits as a result of alleged delays in their applications for legal permanent residency status and naturalization. Typical members of the proposed class fled tyrannical oppression and sought sanctuary in the U.S, including Russian Jews who fled the former Soviet Union, Iraqi Kurds who fled torture by Saddam Hussein, Cubans fleeing the Castro regime, Hmong immigrants from Laos, minorities from Somalia, and refugees from the Balkan wars. The lead plaintiff was Shmul Kaplan, an 80-year-old Holocaust survivor and right leg amputee who fled religious persecution in the former Soviet Union.
Plaintiffs alleged that the immigrant class members qualified to receive SSI benefits due to poverty, old age, disability and blindness. Unlike U.S. citizens, however, plaintiffs' eligibility to receive benefits was limited to a seven-year period. Plaintiffs alleged that terminations of their SSI benefits were unlawful because of administrative delays in the processing of their immigration applications.
Plaintiffs named as defendants the Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the FBI, alleging violations of the Equal Protection Clause and the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§701, et seq. Attorneys for the Community Legal Services, the Hebrew and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the Council Migration Services, and pro bono counsel represented the plaintiffs.
On January 31, 2007, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, moved for a preliminary injunction and requested class certification. The defendants moved to dismiss the case.
The District Court (Judge Eduardo C. Robreno) granted the government's motion in part and denied it in part by an order dated April 16, 2007. Judge Robreno dismissed the due process claims against the Social Security Administration, but let the claims against the Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Services and the FBI proceed. Kaplan v. Chertoff, 481 F.Supp.2d 370 (E.D.Pa. 2007).
Judge Robreno subsequently denied without prejudice plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, motion to certify class, and motion to appoint class counsel.
On January 4, 2008, the parties submitted a joint motion for approval of a settlement agreement and approval of notice to class members of the proposed settlement. The court granted preliminary approval of the agreement on January 24, Kaplan v. Chertoff, No. CIV. A. 06-5304, 2008 WL 200108 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 24, 2008), and the settlement was approved in March 2008.
The court certified a class for settlement purposes that consisted of all non-United States citizens who are receiving or have received SSI and are or will be subject to termination of SSI prior to a decision on their current or future application for naturalization. Per the settlement agreement, defendants agreed to expedite applications by class members on a rolling basis based on the date an applicant would lose SSI benefits and the amount of time an applicant has already been waiting. Defendants also agreed to pay $275,000 in attorney's fees.Dan Dalton - 09/24/2007
Jennifer Bronson - 12/13/2013