Food banks and hunger advocates around the country from Tuscon to Baltimore have noticed a decline in the number of eligible immigrants applying for food stamps and a rise in the number of immigrants seeking to cancel their food stamps since President Trump’s inauguration two months ago, the Washington Post reported.
Advocates on behalf of these immigrants say that their fear stems from the possibility that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would notice their participation in the food stamp program and deny them U.S. citizenship or deport them.
These immigrants are now going to food pantries and soup kitchens so that they can feed themselves and their families.
“They’re making these decisions based on what they hear in the news or information they’re getting from other people,” Miguelina Diaz, food support connections program manager for Hunger Free America, said. “People started asking questions right after Trump took office.”
Diaz said she recently helped two legal resident families from Queens remove themselves from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). One of the women, a mother of two, asked for help erasing her name from a local food pantry, as well.
Spanish-language SNAP applications to the Maryland Food Bank have fallen from 20 a month to zero, the Post reports.
According to the Department of Agriculture, 1.5 million non-citizens and 3.9 million children living with non-citizen adults received food stamps for the 2015 fiscal year.
Adults have to live in the U.S. for five years, be a refugee, or be disabled before they qualify to receive food stamps. Children who entered legally qualify sooner.
Illegal immigrants who live in a “mixed eligibility” household can apply for food stamps on behalf of their children who are U.S. citizens.
The Department of Agriculture says in its formal guidance for non-citizens that there are no immigration consequences for legal immigrants who participate in SNAP.
But a draft executive order from the Trump administration from January sought to make receiving public benefits, such as SNAP, a reason for deporting or denying citizenship to legal immigrants.
Advocates for reforming the welfare system say that immigrants, both illegal and legal, have too much access to public benefits and take more out of the system than they pay into it.
“I don’t think it’s proper to increase the burden on U.S. taxpayers for people whose only claim to them is that they broke our law,” said Robert Rector, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation. “These children receive a large amount of benefits because their parents came here illegally.”