A civil rights law firm based in Alabama says that children who are U.S. citizens from at least five families have been denied food stamps because their parents are undocumented immigrants.
Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Legal Director Mary Bauer confirmed to Raw Story that Alabama’s Department of Human Services had cited the state’s anti-immigration HB 56 law, which makes it illegal to conduct “business transactions” with undocumented workers, as a reason they were denied food stamps.
“We have heard from a number of people that several localities in Alabama have adopted the policy that they’re required to verify the status of parents who are trying to help their kids apply for food stamps — even if they themselves are not applying for food stamps,” Bauer explained. “Of course, that is illegal under federal law.”
“The localities are essentially saying that they are required to do this by Alabama’s immigration law,” she added. “What that means is that we have hungry U.S. citizen kids who are unable to get the benefits to which they are legally entitled.”
Yahoo News’ Liz Goodwin first revealed earlier this week that at least five people had called into SPLC’s immigration hotline to make a report.
Department of Human Services spokesman Barry Spear has insisted that the agency had no policy requiring proof of citizenship for services.
“We are unaware of any violations of the policy,” he said.
But Bauer was skeptical of that claim.
“That may be — that he is not aware of it,” she told Raw Story. “But this is the way that it’s playing out in the field and in the real world. And we will bring specifics to the department’s attention and insist that they come into compliance with federal law.”
While federal law prohibits undocumented immigrants from obtaining food stamps and many other welfare benefits, U.S. citizen children are entitled to all benefits regardless of the status of their parents. A recent study from the Pew Research Center estimated that there were at least 4.5 million born in the U.S. with at least one undocumented parent.
Alabama state Senator Scott Beason, who authored HB 56, told WBRC that SPLC’s claims were “not necessarily factual.”
Update (5:30 p.m. ET): The SPLC tells Raw Story that they have not ruled out taking legal action if Alabama’s Department of Human Services does not come in compliance with the law.