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Trump immigration plan could raise hunger in America

Alfred Lubrano, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in News & Features

For more than a century, immigrants seeking to come to this country have had to prove they will not become a "public charge" -- a poor person dependent on government help to survive.

But the Trump administration is dramatically expanding the conditions of the public charge test, and for the first time counting food stamps as a benefit program whose usage would be seen as a mark against immigrants. Those who use subsidized housing would also be included as public charges under the new rule.

Legal immigrants and their children have a right to apply for food stamps, now know as SNAP benefits for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, experts say.

Send food, not SNAP cards

Having begun his administration with a proposed Muslim ban and continuing with separating children from families to dissuade foreigners from immigrating, Trump also has tried various times to curtail SNAP benefits.

Among other plans, he has proposed that people be sent food packages in lieu of the debit-like electronic cards they use to access SNAP benefits. Advocates have said the plan would cost more than SNAP and be impossible to carry out.

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Trump has said the $68 billion SNAP program is too costly. Hunger fighters say it provides a minimal benefit while preventing starvation.

Reacting to the new public charge rule, Glenn Bergman, executive director of Philabundance, the regional hunger-relief agency that's part of Feeding America, said it's part of "despicable policies" carried out by the administration.

"Food is a human right," he said. "Philabundance sees any barriers to food access as an immoral act."

The administration's new rule is subject to a two-month comment period before it can be officially used in weighing an immigrant's application to live in the U.S.

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