The Application Process For TANF, Food Stamps, Medicaid, and SCHIP. Sharing Information with the INS (Public Charge Concerns)


Immigrants may be deterred from applying for benefits even when they or other family members are eligible for benefits because: (1) they do not understand or are confused by the complicated eligibility rules; (2) they are worried that information they submit to welfare agencies may be reported to the INS; and/or (3) they are afraid that benefit receipt will have a negative impact on legalization, naturalization, and their petitions for relatives to immigrate. The last two factors are known as "public charge" concerns, and are related to immigration law and regulations. We reviewed the integrated application to determine if they addressed such concerns; for example, stating that SSNs and U.S. citizenship/immigrant status information submitted on the application would not be shared with the INS. Including such a statement may be especially helpful in places where applications requestinformation on non-applicant members of the household (e.g., Seattle and Sedalia), since this information is not necessary in determining eligibility.

Only the integrated application used in Dallas explicitly addresses these public charge concerns (see Exhibit 4-2). In a section entitled, "Important Information for Immigrants," the Texas application contains the following statements:

If you or members of your family use Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), or Food Stamps, it will not affect your or your family members' ability to get a green card. The exception is if you use long-term institutional care, such as a nursing home.

SSNs are used to verify your family's income and to conduct computer matching with other agencies. We will not share your SSN with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

In contrast, two sites in the study — Sedalia and Arlington — use integrated applications that state the information on the application will be shared with the INS. The Missouri application specifically states:9

Any alien members of your household have to provide valid documentation of his alien status to the county office. The documentation may be verified with INS with certain identifying information. The response of INS may affect your eligibility and benefits level.

Similarly, the integrated application used in Arlington has a statement regarding SSNs under the section describing Verification and Use of Information. In reference to SSNs, this section states:

In addition, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) will be used to verify the status of aliens. Any difference between the information you give and these records will be investigated.

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