Food banks and aid groups around the country say the Trump Adminstration’s tough stance on immigration — legal and illegal — is motivating immigrants to withdraw from benefits programs like SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid for fear of drawing attention to themselves.
In interviews with aid groups in Maryland and New York, officials say they’ve witnessed families request that they close their cases or simply stop showing up. Manna Food Center in Montgomery County, Md., told NPR that 20 percent of the 500+ families they’ve placed on food stamps in the past year have asked to have them cancelled.
“They say, ‘I want to close my food stamps,’ and […] They say, ‘Well, because I am afraid that something [will] happen to me or they deport me,'” Maria Chavez, an outreach staffer at Manna Food Center, told NPR.
Individuals and families are cancelling their benefits for two main reasons, according to the report. Illegal immigrants are withdrawing from benefits to avoid deportation, while legal residents and refugees are cancelling benefits out of a fear that collecting benefits — for which they must wait five years to collect — will complicate or invalidate their chances of becoming a U.S. citizen.
Many families who withdraw from government benefits cite unfounded rumors about potential consequences, even if they’re legally entitled to them. Naturalized citizens, legal and illegal immigrants, and refugees account for 8.1 percent of 2015 SNAP recipients, per NPR.