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Can Illegal Immigrants Receive Food Stamps?

Updated on June 5, 2012

I recently participated in an online discussion about undocumented immigrants. Some participants were under the impression that undocumented immigrants not only come to the country to take advantage of public assistance programs that the United States offers, but they were also under the impression that these programs are easier to obtain if a person happens to be undocumented. The most discussed public assistance program was food stamps.

During the online discussion, someone claimed that as long as one person in a household is a U.S. Citizen, all members of that household would be eligible for food stamps.

I asked that person to please cite the source used for that claim.

I was directed to a 2008 article posted on MSNBC, which, incidentally, is the first result on Google when you enter “can illegal immigrants receive food stamps” into the search box.

A few paragraphs into the article, the following statement appears:

By law, illegal immigrants are ineligible for food stamps — unless there is at least one U.S. citizen in their household, which describes all U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.

This statement was poorly worded, to say the least, and this is very unfortunate, as MSNBC would be considered a reliable source for news and facts.

Perhaps it would have been more accurate to word it this way:

By law, illegal immigrants are ineligible for food stamps. However, U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants may be eligible for food stamps.

If you are under the (false) impression that the above statement is incorrect, I would suggest taking a few minutes to verify the facts before you spew nonsense and false information.

Not only am I able to dispel the myth that undocumented immigrants receive food stamps, but I am able to provide the links to verify this information, as well as inform you how to verify this information on your own. I am able to do all of this in the following few paragraphs:


SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the federal assistance program for food stamps. And although each state administers SNAP, the requirements for eligibility remain the same for all states.

If you follow this link to SNAP, you are able to verify basic eligibility requirements for SNAP; including the more stringent eligibility requirements for (legal) immigrants at the bottom of the page. There are a few exceptions for immigrants that include asylum cases, refugees, sex trafficking victims, and lawful, permanent residents with military service.

****IMPORTANT NOTE: Please do not use immigrant and illegal immigrant interchangeably. The word “immigrant” is not used to depict “illegal immigrant”. The word “immigrant” is used to refer to an individual who is a legal, documented immigrant.****

I realize that complete eligibility requirements are not listed on SNAP, although the presumption should be that undocumented immigrants are not eligible for food stamps—as it even states that non-citizens who are in the U.S. lawfully and temporarily are ineligible for food stamps.

For further verification, you are able to view any state’s website for full eligibility requirements by navigating to Google and entering: (your state) food stamps.

In MSNBC’s article, there is also reference to New York’s food stamp program. Because of this, I am using New York City’s Human Resources Administration, Department of Social Services as an example. You can review the eligibility requirements for food stamps in the link provided and see that, among other requirements, proof of identity is required, a social security number is required, and proof of immigration status for all non-citizens who are applying for food stamps is required.

This is how the eligibility for food stamps is determined in each and every state.


Undocumented immigrants do not receive food stamps.

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