Poder vs City of Phoenix

    On behalf of Poder in Action, the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, and an individual plaintiff, the William E. Morris Institute for Justice and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest filed a lawsuit against the City of Phoenix in which we claim that the City’s emergency housing program funded with the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund violates federal law. We specifically claim that the City of Phoenix’s restrictive immigrant eligibility requirements are preempted by the federal law and violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution.

    Passed on March 27, 2020, the CARES Act is a federal economic stimulus bill that, in part, allocated funds to states and local municipalities for the purpose of helping with the COVID-19 pandemic recovery. The City of Phoenix was allocated $293 million of Coronavirus Relief Funds and decided to use approximately $25 million to help prevent evictions and homelessness for those living in the City. The City will provide rental, mortgage and utility assistance to persons impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The emergency funds available through the program are paid directly to the recipients’ landlord, mortgage carrier, or utility service provider.

    In establishing this emergency housing program, the City decided to restrict immigrant eligibility to the funds based on whether the immigrant was a “qualified” immigrant” as defined in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (“PRWORA”). This definition of “qualified immigrant” is very restrictive and leaves out many groups of immigrants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) recipients, persons with Temporary Protected Status, asylum applicants, U-Visa holders who are victims of serious crimes and others.

    In this case, Plaintiffs claim that there is no immigrant eligibility restriction in the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund for the emergency housing assistance. Plaintiffs also claim that the immigrant eligibility restrictions in PRWORA do not apply to the emergency housing funds. The emergency housing funds are exempt from PRWORA because they are “short-term, non-cash, in-kind emergency disaster relief.”

    Plaintiffs want the Court to order the City to open up its emergency housing assistance program to all immigrants who live in the City of Phoenix. Read the full complaint here pdf Poder v City of Phoenix Complaint (230 KB) .


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