Oh, snap: Food stamp formula biased in favor of illegal immigrants?

Oh, snap: Food stamp formula biased in favor of illegal immigrants?

Texas issues food stamps to households with illegal immigrants, but the state cannot say how much or how many.

Applications do not collect that data, the Health and Human Services Commission told Watchdog.org.

By law, illegal immigrants are not eligible to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which dispensed $5,260,941,424 in food stamps across Texas in fiscal 2015.

According to HHSC, which administers food stamps via the Lone Star card:

If an applicant or client reports having an unlawfully present immigrant in the household, the immigrant’s income is counted as income for that household’s SNAP benefits.

The calculation, required under federal law, divides the immigrant’s income evenly among the number of household members.

“All prorated shares of the income count as income for the eligible household members, except the unlawful immigrant’s share,” HHSC said.

A report by the Center for Immigration Studies confirmed this month that SNAP provides benefits to families housing illegal immigrants “while denying benefits to an identical family comprised of only U.S. citizens.”

Notably, CIS found that some states do not count all the income of the ineligible illegal immigrants – effectively setting a lower bar for those households to receive benefits.

Although two families may be identical in terms of income and family size, states have the option of including only part of the wages of an employed ineligible alien when calculating SNAP eligibility. Those states which do not count all the income of the ineligible aliens make it easier for a family with an illegal alien present to qualify for food stamps than for an identical all-citizen family.

David North, a CIS fellow and author of the report, said “a bias exists against those here legally when calculating eligibility for food stamps.”

“This overt bias, which most legislators are probably not even aware of, translates into an estimated $1.4 billion cost to taxpayers,” he said.

And, CIS pointed out in its report, “States are not incentivized to change their policy as the federal government pays for SNAP, not the state governments.”

CIS found that only six states or territories show no bias and include all family income: Arizona, Guam, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Utah.

“The proration formula is inherently unfair to the citizen family, and it comes with a price tag,” North said.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”

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