ACLU: Unconstitutional For Georgia To Deny Food Stamps To Syrian Refugees

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December 11, 2015 3:00 p.m.

This post has been updated.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia on Friday condemned the state’s refusal to process the food stamp application for a Syrian refugee family that arrived in Georgia this month, questioning whether the move is constitutional.

“The ACLU of Georgia has consistently maintained that our constitution grants basic protections of the law to citizens and individuals who are legally in the United States. Any action to limit those protections based on nationality — including Governor Deal’s failure to process service benefits for lawfully present families in Georgia — raise serious constitutional questions,” Nora Benavidez, staff attorney at the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement to TPM. “We are concerned for those families that have arrived and we are committed to advocating with our partner organizations to ensure the rights accorded to them.”

The ACLU of Georgia is considering filing a lawsuit, but has not yet made a decision.

A family of three Syrian refugees arrived in the Atlanta area this month and applied for food stamps last week. But the state Department of Human Services said on Thursday that they would not process the family’s applications for food stamps and other state benefits.

Gov. Nathan Deal (R) issued an executive order in November directing state agencies not to help with the resettlement process for Syrian refugees. And a couple of days later, the Department of Human Services sent a memo telling employees not to process Syrian refugees’ applications.

Despite a warning from the federal government that the state’s new policy does not comply with federal law, Deal has defended his executive order.

“We’re ready to defend it if we have to. I’d rather not spend taxpayer money defending something that can be avoided,” he said this week, according to the Journal-Constitution. “I just don’t know why the federal government wants to do this behind closed doors in total secrecy, and don’t even trust state leaders charged with the security of our states with basic knowledge.”

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