Fear of Deportation Drives People to Avoid Food Stamps

The Trump Administration’s strict immigration enforcement policy has driven poor people to avoid federal food assistance out of fear of deportation.1 The food stamp program, formally named the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), only welcomes people who are legal residents of the U.S.2 Many poor families, however, include both non-legal residents and legal residents.3 Many of these families have citizen children who were born in the U.S. In those families, often the non-legal resident adult submits the SNAP application.4

Some people now feel that it is too dangerous to take advantage of food stamps under President Trump.5 People do not want to put their name and address on a government form because they are afraid they will be found and deported.6 The decision to opt out of the program is extreme for low-income families.7 SNAP provides about $125 per month for eligible household members to buy essentials.8

The Department of Agriculture states on its website that non-citizens will not be deported, denied entry to the country, or denied permanent status because they apply for or receive SNAP benefits.9 Nonetheless, people throughout the U.S. are refusing to sign up for food stamps, letting benefits expire, or withdrawing from the program.10 Immigration advocates see the avoidance of food stamps as a reflection of a climate of fear established by the new administration.11

Trump’s 2018 budget proposal includes massive program cuts, including a $193 billion cut from SNAP over the upcoming decade.12 This cut of over 25 percent would be implemented by reducing eligibility and adding additional work requirements.13


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