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Judge Rejects Citizenship Restriction on CARES Funding

July 30, 2020
 
 

A federal judge for the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts issued a preliminary injunction Friday ordering that the Department of Education could not deny funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to a Bunker Hill Community College student based on her immigration status. The student, Farah Noerand, came to the U.S. from Haiti following an earthquake in 2010 and holds temporary protected status in the U.S.

U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin rejected the Education Department's contention that only students who qualify for Title IV federally funded financial aid qualify for CARES Act emergency relief funding -- a determination by the department that has prevented noncitizens, including TPS holders and beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, from accessing the funds.

Sorokin found instead that the "CARES Act unambiguously authorized the provision of funds … to students without regard to their immigration status, i.e., without regard to whether the student is eligible for Title IV financial aid, and rejects the Department’s contention that the statute is ambiguous on this point."

The injunction applies only to Noerand, but the judge indicated he is considering expanding it. The judge gave the department until July 31 -- subsequently extended until Aug. 7 -- to submit a brief arguing why the scope of the preliminary injunction should not be expanded.

Angela Morabito, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, referenced a separate ruling by a federal judge in Washington State in a similar case that found in the department's favor. "A federal court in the State of Washington agrees with the Department on this issue," she said. "We expect to prevail on appeal in this case."

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