Do Illegal Immigrants Receive Food Stamps

The question of whether illegal immigrants receive food stamps is a contentious one, with strong opinions on both sides. Some people believe that illegal immigrants should not receive any government benefits, while others believe that they should be eligible for assistance if they meet certain criteria. The issue is further complicated by the fact that accurate data on the number of illegal immigrants who receive food stamps is difficult to obtain. A 2018 study by the Cato Institute estimated that 3.5 million illegal immigrants received food stamps, while a 2017 study by the Center for Immigration Studies estimated that the number was closer to 1.6 million. The disparity in these estimates is due in part to the fact that many illegal immigrants are reluctant to participate in surveys, fearing that their information could be used to deport them.

Do Illegal Immigrants Receive Food Stamps?

The short answer is no, illegal immigrants are not eligible to receive food stamps or any other form of government assistance.

Other Programs For Illegal Immigrants

There are several myth and misconceptions about programs available for illegal immigrants. Some of the most common beliefs are:

  • Illegal immigrants are eligible for free healthcare. (False)
  • Illegal immigrants can attend public schools for free. (False)
  • Illegal immigrants can receive welfare benefits. (False)
  • Illegal immigrants can obtain a driver’s license. (False)

The truth is that illegal immigrants are not eligible for any of these programs. In fact, they are often specifically excluded from receiving these benefits by law.

Table of Programs Available to Illegal Immigrants

The following table provides a summary of the programs that are available to illegal immigrants in the United States.

Food stampsNo
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)No
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)No
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)No
Child care subsidiesNo
Housing assistanceNo
Driver’s licenseNo

As you can see from the table, there are no programs that are available to illegal immigrants in the United States. This is because they are not considered to be legal residents of the country.

History Of Food Stamps For Illegal Immigrants

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often referred to as food stamps, is a program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides food assistance to low-income individuals and families. The program is only available to U.S. citizens and certain qualified non-citizens.

In the early history of the food stamp program, there were no specific provisions excluding illegal immigrants from receiving benefits. However, as the program’s costs increased in the 1990s, there was growing concern about the potential for ineligible individuals to receive benefits. In response, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), which barred illegal immigrants from receiving food stamps.

The PRWORA was challenged in court, and in 2001, a federal judge ruled that the law’s ban on food stamps for illegal immigrants was unconstitutional. The Bush administration appealed the ruling, and in 2002, the Supreme Court upheld the ban. The Court ruled that the government has the authority to set eligibility requirements for federal programs, and that the ban on food stamps for illegal immigrants was a valid exercise of that authority.

The ban on food stamps for illegal immigrants remains in effect today. However, there have been some changes to the program in recent years. In 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which provided food stamp benefits to certain qualified legal immigrants who were not previously eligible. The ARRA also increased the amount of benefits that families can receive.

Current Status Of Food Stamps For Illegal Immigrants

  • Illegal immigrants are not eligible to receive food stamps.
  • Legal immigrants who have been in the United States for less than five years are also ineligible for food stamps, unless they meet certain exceptions.
  • The exceptions include:
    • Refugees
    • Asylees
    • Victims of trafficking
    • Certain Amerasians
    • Cuban and Haitian entrants
  • Illegal immigrants who are caught receiving food stamps may be deported.

In addition to the federal ban on food stamps for illegal immigrants, many states have also passed laws that prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving state-funded benefits. These laws vary from state to state, but they typically prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving benefits such as food stamps, Medicaid, and housing assistance.

Food Stamp Eligibility for Legal Immigrants
Immigration StatusEligibility for Food Stamps
U.S. citizenEligible
Permanent residentEligible after 5 years
RefugeeEligible immediately
AsyleeEligible immediately
Victim of traffickingEligible immediately

The Food Stamp Program

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is a federally funded program that provides food assistance to qualified low-income individuals and families. The program provides monthly benefits that can be used to purchase food at authorized retail stores. SNAP is the largest federal nutrition assistance program in the United States, serving over 40 million people in 2020.

Eligibility Requirements

  • U.S. citizen or qualified noncitizen
  • Income and asset limits
  • Work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents

Illegal Immigrants

Illegal immigrants are generally not eligible for SNAP benefits. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, illegal immigrants who are victims of trafficking or certain other crimes may be eligible for benefits. Additionally, children who are U.S. citizens or qualified noncitizens may be eligible for SNAP benefits regardless of their parents’ immigration status.

Impact on the Food Stamp Program

The presence of illegal immigrants in the United States has a relatively small impact on the Food Stamp Program. In 2016, illegal immigrants made up only 1.6% of SNAP participants. However, the issue of illegal immigrants receiving SNAP benefits is often a source of controversy and debate.

Arguments for and Against Allowing Illegal Immigrants to Receive SNAP Benefits

Arguments for

  • Illegal immigrants are often low-income and in need of food assistance.
  • Denying SNAP benefits to illegal immigrants could lead to increased hunger and poverty.
  • Providing SNAP benefits to illegal immigrants could help to reduce crime and encourage them to become legal residents.

Arguments against

  • Illegal immigrants are not eligible for most other government benefits, and providing them with SNAP benefits would be unfair to legal residents.
  • Providing SNAP benefits to illegal immigrants could encourage more people to enter the country illegally.
  • SNAP benefits are a limited resource, and providing them to illegal immigrants could take away from benefits that could be given to legal residents.


The issue of whether or not illegal immigrants should be allowed to receive SNAP benefits is a complex one with no easy answers. There are valid arguments on both sides of the issue. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to provide SNAP benefits to illegal immigrants is a political one that must be made by elected officials.

Eligibility for Food Stamps for Non-Citizens

Individuals who are not U.S. citizens may be eligible for food stamps (officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP) under certain circumstances. Eligibility depends on immigration status, income, and household size. Generally, only specific categories of non-citizens are allowed to receive SNAP benefits.

Qualified Non-Citizens

Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs)

  • LPRs who have lived in the U.S. for at least 5 years may be eligible for SNAP.
  • LPRs who receive SSI or TANF benefits are also eligible.

Refugees, Asylees, and Cuban/Haitian Entrants

  • These individuals are eligible for SNAP benefits for a limited time after their arrival in the U.S.
  • The specific duration of eligibility varies depending on the individual’s circumstances.

Victims of Trafficking and Certain Battered Spouses, Children, and Parents

  • These individuals may be eligible for SNAP benefits regardless of their immigration status.
  • They must meet specific criteria related to their victimization.

Other Eligible Non-Citizens

  • Certain Native Americans, Native Alaskans, and Pacific Islanders.
  • Individuals granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).
  • Individuals granted parole into the U.S. for humanitarian reasons.
  • Individuals granted asylum or withholding of removal.

Income and Household Size

In addition to immigration status, non-citizens must also meet income and household size requirements to be eligible for SNAP benefits. The income limits and household size guidelines are the same for non-citizens as for U.S. citizens.

Household SizeGross Monthly Income Limit
Each additional person$598

Application Process

Non-citizens who meet the eligibility criteria can apply for SNAP benefits at their local SNAP office. They will need to provide documentation to verify their immigration status, income, and household size. The application process for non-citizens is generally the same as for U.S. citizens.

Folks, I hope this article has shed some light on the complicated topic of food stamps and illegal immigrants. Remember, the situation is constantly evolving, so keep an eye on the latest news and updates. In the meantime, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to drop them below, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Thanks for reading, and be sure to visit again soon for more insightful discussions on important topics like this.