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Important Information for Canadian-Born Native Americans: SSI and Food Stamps and Border Crossing Rights

Wabanaki Legal News, Winter 1998


SSI and Food Stamps update:

Some Canadian-born Native Americans are being notified that they will lose benefits such as SSI and Food Stamps. When the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 was passed, Congress took benefits away from non-citizens, including legal aliens. The Notices sent to Canadian-born Native Americans treat this group as legal aliens. This group should not lose their benefits under this new law.

An amendment has now been passed to make clear that this law is not intended to apply to Canadian-born Native Americans who have applied for or are receiving SSI. Thanks to the help of Senator Snowe, an amendment in the United States Congress is pending to make it clear that the law does not apply to Canadian-born Native Americans receiving or applying for food stamps.

If you get a Notice trying to end your benefits, and want our help, call Pine Tree Legal Assistance right away. Our Toll-free number is 1-800-879-7463. It is important to call immediately so that you can protect your right to appeal a denial of benefits.

Cross Border Rights:

A recent case made clear that while Canadian born Native Americans with at least 50% Indian blood do have the right to cross the border freely, this right is not always recognized by immigration officials. A Micmac woman from Indian Brook First Nation in Nova Scotia recently discovered she had to enforce her right in order to get protection.

The woman was detained while crossing from British Columbia into the State of Washington. She was notified that she had to appear before an immigration judge for exclusion proceedings. Her case was transferred to Boston and set for a hearing last June. Pine Tree's Native American Unit helped her find two lawyers in Massachusetts to represent her without charge. At the hearing, evidence was presented that she had at least 50% Indian blood. The case was dismissed.

We wish to thank attorneys Robert F. Mills of Wynn & Wynn, Hyannis, Massachusetts and Johanna Flacks-Jatta for their willingness to take this case protecting these important rights.

Publication Volume: 
1998.2
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