Many immigrants who are legal residents are afraid to apply for CalFresh (food stamps) because they have heard it will harm their chances of obtaining citizenship or they are wary of providing information to the government because they live in a mixed status household. In very low-income immigrant households struggling to make ends meet, this means that children are missing out on the healthy meals their parents could provide with CalFresh benefits.
The CalFresh Task Force, led by the San Diego Hunger Coalition, convened on May 28, 2015, to discuss how the immigration and naturalization processes – and misinformation about these processes -- impacts individuals and their decisions to apply for public benefits, like CalFresh. The meeting featured a presentation by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS, formerly INS). USCIS Community Liaison, John Ramirez, provided information for CalFresh Task Force members to be better able to address myths, stigma and misinformation by tapping into existing resources.
This meeting is part of a larger initiative of the San Diego Hunger Coalition to reduce misinformation that prevents eligible San Diego residents from applying for and receiving CalFresh. Legal permanent residents in the State of California do qualify for CalFresh, and receiving the benefit will not hurt their ability to become U.S. citizens. As a result of the meeting, USCIS has committed to working with CalFresh community partners to dispel myths among service providers, and the County of San Diego’s Health and Human Service Agency is exploring training opportunities for their staff with USCIS on the topic.