Report says SNAP unequally benefits Illinois families of illegal immigrants


Families including an employed ineligible alien may secure food stamps when an all-citizen family of the same size and with the same income would be denied the benefits.   File photo

In the overwhelming majority of states, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits to families with an illegal immigrant wage earner in it while denying benefits to an identical family of American citizens having the same income, according to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

“Illinois is one of the states that does run (SNAP) so that it benefits the family with the illegal resident in it,” CIS Communications Director Marguerite Telfordsaid from Washington, D.C.

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program administered to states by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for people of limited income, There are income limits that go with family sizes, according to the report written by CIS fellow David North.

“No family of three, for instance, with a gross income of more than $2,177 a month is routinely eligible for benefits," North writes in the report. "But what if one of the family members is an ineligible alien who cannot (nominally) receive food stamps and does have some income. How do you mesh the income from that alien into the formula?” 

And that’s where the trouble starts, he said, because in most states — under some circumstances — families including an employed ineligible alien may secure food stamps when an all-citizen family of the same size and with the same income would be denied the benefits.

“I don’t think it’s really fair when your state’s policy discriminates against Americans," Telford said. "I mean that’s what it’s doing."

States have a responsibility to better manage the federal dollars they’re given to support their residents, she added.

“Illinois residents are paying that federal tax," Telford said. "I’m not sure they would like the idea that it’s being used for this, and I don’t really think they’d like the bias away from American citizens. I actually don’t think legislatures would like it either."

But the issue isn’t just about money. It’s also a fairness issue, she said.

“Can you imagine the two families living next door and one thinking ‘Wow, if I were an illegal, my family could be bringing in more money?’" she said. "Do you really want your American citizens sitting there getting bitter and feeling that the state is not treating them fairly? It makes people very resentful. I think this is just plain bad policy on the books."

Of the states and territories, 47 have opted for the SNAP proration formula and six have not. According to the most recent of SNAPs State Options Reports, the six dissenters are Arizona, Guam, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina and Utah.

“Each of these jurisdictions, incidentally, has a Republican governor,” North writes.

The CIS report is available online at: http://cis.org/sites/cis.org/files/north-food-stamps.pdf.

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