ACLU reaction to federal judge's ruling that drug testing of welfare applicants is unconstitutional listen10/25/11 Janelle Irwin
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Yesterday a federal judge in Orlando granted an injunction to stop the state from drug testing welfare recipients. The ACLU's lead attorney trying to get the Florida law ruled unconstitutional is Maria Kayanan. She said the ruling shows that Fourth Amendment rights should be held up, even for poor people.
“So it was both a reaffirmation of constitutional values and a strong critic of what the legislature had done and how it had done it without any foundation, any sound studies, and any basis that would support the ugly stereotype that welfare applicants and recipients are drug users at any greater rate then members of the general population. If fact, the numbers that have come out in July, August, and September confirm that in fact the drug rate usage is lower in the population of TANF applicants then in is in the general population, at least in these three months.”
What does this mean for the future of TANF applicants? What can they expect? This is a temporary thing so is this something that is just going to get pulled out from right underneath us? Tell me a little bit about what’s going to happen here?
“From what we understand from news reports and the Department of Children and Families has stated that they will process the applications without requiring the drug test. Those applications that had been pre-cleared for the drug test and are awaiting the drug test because there is a lag because of the drug testing protocols, those are going to be approved ASAP. Those who failed the drug test are going to be invited to reapply without being required to take the test. So for all practical purposes for now, the drug testing is over.”
So what is temporary about it then?
“The preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy used to halt in this case an unconstitutional practice until the case can be fully heard on the merits with a bench trial after presumed discovery and the usual course of litigation. We don’t know if the DCF is going to appeal. They could appeal now, they could appeal after trial. We simply don’t know what they’re going to do.”
Tampa State Senator Arthenia Joyner has already filed legislation to repeal the law. Kayanan and the ACLU hope yesterday’s ruling will help her legislation to pass.