Not coming for giveaways
What is often misstated about immigrants is that they come to America precisely to latch onto government giveaways, advocates say.
"Most people who come here want to work," said Kathy Fisher, policy director at the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and a SNAP expert. "And there already very strict requirements for those who receive benefits."
Even people with green cards cannot begin to receive SNAP benefits until they've been in the U.S. for five years, Fisher said. "The door to America is not wide open for people to grab benefits," she added.
Fisher said she was unaware of any statistics that describe the number of legal immigrants who use SNAP benefits.
Immigrants fear applying for help
Immigrants have been denying themselves benefits long before the new Trump rule was declared.
Low-income immigrant mothers are skipping the chance to get nutritious foods and help for their infants from the federal WIC program because they fear deportation, or the loss of their children, according to the agencies that distribute those benefits. WIC refers to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.
And immigrant families are even staying away from food pantries because they're afraid they'll be detained, said Adele LaTourette, director of Hunger Free New Jersey, headquartered in Englewood.
"The level of fear has risen so dramatically, the chilling effect is people just don't feel safe enough to enter an emergency pantry," she said.
It may not be a well-founded worry, because no one is officially keeping track of individuals in pantries, said Patrick Druhan, director of Montgomery Hunger Solutions for Share Food Network. Share provides food to pantries in the region.
But the new rule will only serve to keep more families from accessing food they need, LaTourette said.
"Hunger will be increasing because of this rule," she added. "It's undeniable. It's inevitable."
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