Oh no! Illegal immigrants are cancelling SNAP benefits to avoid deportation

Our latest chapter in the ongoing saga of how President Trump’s immigration policies are destroying the world is once again brought to us by the Washington Post. This time it has to do with “immigrant families” who are asking to have their food stamp benefits (SNAP) canceled to avoid scrutiny by immigration enforcement officials. This somewhat dubiously sourced story deals with a relative handful of people which the media would clearly love to paint as some sort of growing trend. But it also curiously encompasses two different categories of immigrants.

Our tale opens with an account from Luisa Fortin, a SNAP outreach coordinator in Georgia.

Since mid-January, five of Fortin’s families have withdrawn from the SNAP program. One, the single mother of three citizen daughters, had fled to Georgia to escape an abusive husband. Another, two green-card holders with four young children, were thinking of taking on third jobs to compensate for the lost benefits. These families represent a small fraction of Fortin’s caseload — she estimates she has signed 200 immigrant families up for SNAP over the past six months — but based on the calls she gets from other clients, she fears more cancellations are imminent.

“I get calls from concerned parents all the time: ‘should I take my kids out of the program?’” Fortin said. “They’re risking hunger out of fear … and my heart just breaks for them.”

The reason I specified “two different categories” of immigrants can be found right in that first paragraph. Notice how the author describes a “single mother of three citizen children.” Why would anyone go to the trouble of specifying that the children are citizens unless the underlying assumption is that the mother is not? It is, as the article helpfully notes, against the law for illegal immigrants to collect SNAP benefits. (And I’m sure we’re all quite positive that that never happens. Perish the thought.) But the children most certainly can qualify if the family is in financial distress. The reality, of course, is that everyone in the family is realizing those benefits even if they are only being awarded in the names of the children.

The other stories being told by Ms. Fortin involve families of legal immigrants including green card holders. This certainly provides cause for more than a little confusion when considering this report. If you are in the country legally and are eligible for supplemental food benefits, why would you have anything to fear? These people are either getting some terribly bad information from government officials and outreach coordinators like Fortin or there is more to the story which we are not being told. If the desire to “escape scrutiny” stems from the fact that there are others in the household of, shall we say, more dubious legal status, then things begin to make a bit more sense.

In the end, this brings up the question of precisely how this turns out to be “bad news.” People who enter the country illegally are not supposed to be draining resources out of the system which should be designated for those who follow the rules, not to mention all of the actual citizens who may require them. And I’m not going to expend any sympathy on someone who is “fearful of scrutiny” if they are breaking the law and aren’t supposed to be here in the first place, or if they are here legally but are violating another federal statute by harboring illegal immigrants. The one area where we certainly can have a soft spot in our hearts is for the citizen children of illegal immigrants because no one wants to see them going hungry. But whose fault is that? To play the bad guy here and just rip the Band-Aid off, the fault lies with the mother who made the decision to jump the border illegally and then bring children into the world because she was placing them in peril herself.

The last thing I would note in this report is the fact that the Washington Post freely admits that the story is essentially impossible to verify. They were “unable” to speak to any of the immigrant families in question who had supposedly decided to drop out of the program. They attempt to bolster their claim by citing statistics showing that there has been a recent marked drop off in eligible immigrants applying for supplemental assistance. But given the scenarios I laid out above, might that not also be a factor accounted for by the fact that illegal immigration rapidly dropped off in the last month as well? We actually have nothing more to go on than the story provided by Ms. Fortin. I’m willing to take her at her word, but even then we don’t know if this is actually a trend or a few isolated incidents.