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Alaska Court Rules Immigrants Qualify for Special State Benefits
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

The Alaska Supreme Court recently issued a decision that will have a significant impact on foreign nationals living in the state. In the case, State v. Andrade (available online at http://www.alaska.net/~akctlib/sp5414.txt), the court ruled that certain non-citizens lawfully in the US are eligible for Permanent Fund Dividends (money the state has received from oil and gas revenues and distributes to residents of the state).

In a previous case, the Alaska Supreme Court had ruled that undocumented immigrants were not eligible for PFDs, but left open the issue of whether others might be eligible. Four members of a family sought the dividends. There were two US citizen children, a permanent resident mother, and a father who had applied for asylum. The state denied the funds, and the family filed suit. The children were found ineligible because of the parents’ status.

Alaska law requires a person to be “lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the US” to be eligible for PFDs. The court found that the most important issue involved in interpreting the meaning of this requirement is the intent of the foreign national. The plaintiffs, represented by Alaska immigration lawyer Margaret Stock, argued that because the statutory language mirrored language in the Immigration and Nationality Act, it should be given the same effect, and that because a number of people who would be considered “lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the US” under federal law were excluded from PFD eligibility, the state’s rules were unconstitutional. The court disagreed, finding that while the language was similar, the state statute was not to be interpreted the same as the federal one. The court found that the state statute should be interpreted to mean lawfully in the state and intending to remain indefinitely.

The state argued that immigrants not admitted for permanent residence could not form the intent to remain in the state, and therefore were not eligible for PFDs. The court disagreed, noting that while in most cases someone who is not a permanent resident cannot intend to remain in the US permanently, there are some cases where this is allowed. For example, certain nonimmigrant visas, including Hs and Ls are known as dual intent visas, meaning that the person holding them is not required to demonstrate their intent to depart the US after their period of authorized admission. Because of this, clearly some people who are not permanent residents can nonetheless have the intent to remain in the US permanently. These people, the court found, are eligible for PFDs.

Hundreds of people are expected to benefit from this ruling, including people with pending applications for adjustment of status and asylum.


About The Authors

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defender’s office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com


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