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Group alleges immigrants improperly denied unemployment benefits



Chris Lisinski

Hundreds of Massachusetts immigrants who legally qualify for unemployment benefits have been improperly blocked from the aid, a legal advocacy group alleged as it called for immediate action from the Baker administration.

The Boston chapter of Lawyers for Civil Rights on Wednesday published a letter it sent last week to the state Department of Unemployment Assistance warning that it believes the department has “demonstrated a pattern and practice of wrongfully denying claims or terminating benefits” for Temporary Protected Status holders. TPS recipients, many of whom hail from countries such as Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador, are legally permitted to work and receive unemployment benefits in the United States.

The Lawyers for Civil Rights group alleged, however, that the Baker administration has in hundreds of instances rejected claims improperly.

The organization listed three examples in its letter of TPS holders who were denied benefits, but said they represent “the tip of the iceberg.” “State agencies need much more legal and technical expertise surrounding the complexities and nuances of immigration law,” LCR Executive Director Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal said in a statement. “Without strategic state coordination and oversight across agencies, we will continue to see textbook examples of discrimination and exclusion against immigrants. State agencies are leaving immigrant families in the lurch.” A spokesperson for the Department of Unemployment Assistance could not be reached for immediate comment.

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