Supreme Court to Hear California Challenge of Limit to Welfare Benefits for New Residents

January 13, 1999 12:00 am

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Wednesday, January 13, 1999

WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court today will hear arguments in Anderson v Roe, California’s challenge to the Ninth Circuit decison blocking the state from limiting welfare payments to new state residents.

The ACLU of Southern California, the ACLU of Northern California and the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties represent defendants in this challenge along with the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

This is California’s second attempt to reduce welfare benefits to women and children, many of whom are fleeing domestic violence in their states of origin.

Former Governor Wilson first tried to cut the benefits of new arrivals with a waiver from the Bush Administration in 1992, a scheme the ACLU of Southern California challenged in Green vs Anderson. The District Court declared that proposed policy unconstitutional in 1993 and the Ninth Circuit upheld the decision in 1994. The Supreme Court dismissed California’s appeal in February 1997.

Mark Rosenbaum, Legal Director of the ACLU of Southern California, will deliver oral arguments before the Court.

“This case will decide whether our Constitution treats newcomers as bonafide citizens,” Rosenbaum said. “The Court’s decision will affect women and children who come to California seeking to rebuild their lives, but who are faced with a two-tier system to penalize them for being victims of violence and abuse.”

If California is allowed to reduce benefits to new residents for one year to the amount they would have received in their state of origin, a family of four from Mississippi, for example, would receive $144 a month rather than California’s allotment of $673.

Martha Davis, legal director of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the case is “pivotal” for women fleeing domestic abuse who are forced to move across state lines in order to avoid stalking and violence. “Our Constitution guarantees that people will not be penalized for crossing a state border,” she said.

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