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Issue Alert - 03-09-07

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Sep 29, 2003

Issue Summary:

PEM 225 - Children under 18 who are legal immigrants can qualify for Food Assistance Program (FAP) effective October 1, 2003, if they meet other FAP eligibility requirements, regardless of how long they have been in the U.S.

Persons Affected:

Children under 18 who are legal immigrants but who have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years.


Food Assistance Program (FAP) (formerly known as Food Stamps)

What's Happening?

Effective October 1, 2003, federal law has changed so that children under 18 who lawfully immigrated to the United States may qualify for FAP/Food Stamps regardless of when they entered the United States (or how long they have been here). Some of the legal immigrant children who qualify under the new law are living in households that currently receive FAP/Food Stamps but receive less FAP/Food Stamps because immigrant children who have been in the U.S. for less than 5 years have not been included in calculating the households' FAP allotment. In these cases, FIA caseworkers must increase the FAP/Food Stamp allotment the next time the case is "handled" -- but no later than the next redetermination.

What Should Advocates Do?

Encourage FAP/Food Stamp households that include a legal immigrant child to contact FIA and request that the child be added to the FAP/Food Stamp case immediately. Spread the word about this restoration of eligibility.Share the information in this alert with agencies that work with immigrants.Help households that include an undocumented immigrant understand the legal protections that allow the other household members to apply for FAP/Food Stamps and protect the undocumented immigrant from being reported to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Any noncitizens in the household who does not wish to disclose their immigration status can choose not to apply for FAP/Food Stamps for themselves. They must provide information about income and assets, but do not have to discuss their immigration status. FIA cannot report persons who do not apply for Food Stamps for themselves, or other non-citizens to the INS unless FIA has a received a copy of a Deportation Order for the individual or there has been an FIA hearing regarding the individual's immigration status and the hearing decision on illegal status is supported by an official INS determination, such as an order of deportation. See PEM 225 page 8.Agencies and advocates can also call the Center for Civil Justice's Food Stamp Helpline at (800) 481-4989 if they have questions about this policy or other Food Stamp rules affecting immigrants.

What Should Clients Do?

If your household receives FAP/Food Stamps and your household includes a legal immigrant child who was disqualified under the old rules, contact your FIA worker and ask to have the child added to the FAP/Food Stamp grant. If you are in a low income household that includes a legal immigrant child who enetered the United States after August 22, 1996, consider applying or re-applying for FAP/Food Stamps, even if you were denied in the past. Now that the child can be included in the FAP/Food Stamp grant, you may qualify for FAP/Food Stamps. Call the Food Stamp Helpline at (800) 481-4989 if you have questions about whether you qualify for FAP/Food Stamps or are receiving the correct amount or about the special rules affecting immigrants.Seek advice if you are worried about applying for FAP/Food Stamps because your household includes an undocumented immigrant (a non-citizen who does not have immigration papers). You do not have to provide information about immigration status for anyone who does not want to apply for FAP/Food Stamps for him- or herself. FIA cannot report an undocumented immigrant to the INS unless FIA has seen a deportation order from the INS that shows the person is here illegally.

Finding Help

Most legal aid and legal services office handle these type of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate the "free" legal services or legal aid office that serves your county on the Michigan LawHelp website ( or look in the yellow pages under "attorneys" or call the toll-free lawyer referral number, (800) 968-0738.