Glitch resolved for immigrants seeking unemployment insurance

Fix benefits those with temporary protected status

THE STATE’S Department of Unemployment Assistance has cleared up a paperwork Catch-22 for immigrants with temporary protected status that was preventing them from receiving or extending their unemployment benefits.

Temporary protected status is a legal protection that allows roughly 12,000 immigrants from countries with conflict or natural disasters to remain and work in Massachusetts — and receive unemployment insurance.

The state agency required applicants to submit a page from the federal register showing that temporary protected status for their countries, primarily El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, and Nicaragua, had been extended. But the Trump administration did not update the federal register until late December, making it almost impossible for the immigrants to prove their status. The result was a logjam in claims.

Lawyers for Civil Rights pressed the Baker administration last month in an open letter to address the problem, after being contacted by dozens of immigrants with temporary protected status. The letter said the department had “demonstrated a pattern and practice of wrongfully denying claims or terminating benefits.”

The Baker administration responded. “They have agreed to update their system to make sure TPS recipients are not denied benefits. That’s a huge win. It looks like DUA is moving quickly on this front,” said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, the executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.

Meet the Author

Sarah Betancourt

Freelance reporter, Formerly worked for CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a long-time Latina reporter in Massachusetts. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a breaking news reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, incarceration, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Temporary protected status recipients can now file applications online the same way as any other unemployment assistance applicant –by submitting a Social Security number, an employment authorization document, and a Massachusetts driver’s license.

Those who qualify will be eligible for all retroactive payments to their account, said a Department of Unemployment Assistance media representative in an emailed statement, adding that the agency “remains committed to ensuring that those who are eligible for unemployment benefits have access to the resources and benefits they need.”