March 28, 2017

Immigrants afraid to use food stamps

NPR- Groups that help low-income families get food assistance are alarmed by a recent drop in the number of immigrants seeking help. Some families are even canceling their food stamps and other government benefits, for fear that receiving them will affect their immigration status or lead to deportation. Many of the concerns appear to be unfounded, but have been fueled by the Trump administration's tough stance on immigration.

Officials at Manna Food Center in Montgomery County, Md., report that about 20 percent of the 561 families they've helped apply for food stamps, or SNAP benefits, in the past few months have asked that their cases be closed.

Jim Wengler, director of benefits access at Hunger Free New York City, says fewer immigrants have also been showing up recently at the 20 sites his group serves around the city. And he says some non-citizens — even those in the country legally — want all of their government benefits canceled, including Medicaid.

Nonprofits around the country say they're seeing similar declines, although there are no hard numbers to back up the claims.

Advocates say the concerns seem to be twofold. Undocumented immigrants, who can't get benefits themselves, are worried about getting deported if they receive benefits for their children. And lawful permanent residents are worried that receiving government aid — which they generally have to wait five years to do — will jeopardize their chances of becoming citizens.

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