NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey is being sued over a new state policy that denies Medicaid benefits to certain groups of legal immigrants.

Lawyers for Seton Hall University Law School and the firm Gibbons P.C. filed an amendment Thursday to a class-action suit first filed in June on behalf of the estimated 12,000 legal permanent residents they say are no longer eligible for FamilyCare, a public health program for the poor.

New rules for the state-funded program say immigrants who are parents or guardians must have had green cards for at least five years to be eligible. Pregnant women and children are exempt from the new regulations, which are part of a larger package of budget cuts across the state.

The suit, filed in state Superior Court in Mercer County by the university’s Center for Social Justice, contends that the cuts by the Department of Human Services violate federal and state equal protection laws by singling out certain groups of immigrants.

“You can’t cut people off the health care rolls on the basis of the fact they are an immigrant,” said Jenny-Brooke Condon, and associate professor at Seton Hall. “We’re not arguing they can’t have budget cutbacks, but to single these people out on the basis of their alienage or their immigration status is unconstitutional.”

Attorney General Spokesman Paul Loriquet said they are reviewing the amended complaint.

The five named complainants in the suit are all legal permanent residents who are low-income, working parents or guardians, according to Condon.

“They can’t afford health care without state subsidies,” Condon said. “Many are outraged that they are working and paying taxes to the state, but the state has turned around and singled them out.”

New Jersey is one of several states that have tried to pass similar restrictions. New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts have had legal challenges filed against similar regulations, according to Condon, with mixed legal outcomes.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

More From CBS New York

Download Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE