The Farm Bill, which also authorizes the food stamp program, is being re-considered by the House of Representatives after that legislation failed to pass recently. Given the power of the farm lobby, the bill is certain to become law later this year.
While the bill is in limbo, the House should add a modest amendment that would see to it that families including illegal aliens (gently termed "undocumented non-citizens" in Department of Agriculture regulations) are not more eligible for food stamps than all-citizen families, which is now the case in most states.
Let me say that again, because it is hard to believe:
Under many circumstances a low-income family with an illegal alien worker in it has more rights to food stamps than a family that contains nothing but legal residents.
I am not suggesting that mixed families with illegal aliens in them should not get any food stamps, though one could make a solid argument for that policy; I just do not want such families to have easier access — as they do now — to the food stamp program, than citizen families with similar incomes.
For a complete explanation of the convoluted way that current law allows such a bizarre practice, see this 2012 blog of mine. To summarize, while all income earned by legal residents in a family is counted in a situation where too much income makes the family ineligible, only a portion of the income of an illegal alien is counted when the income eligibility of the family is being determined.
For example, if a family of four containing only citizens and/or green-card holders has a gross income of, say, $30,000 a year, the family does not get food stamps; if a family of the same size and the same total income has that income coming from a member who is an illegal, bingo! the family gets food stamps.
A few states, such as Kansas, have opted out of this arrangement and count all income from all workers, legal or illegal, when calculating food stamp eligibility for mixed families. Families consisting of nothing but illegals are not eligible for these benefits anywhere in the nation.
The food stamp program is now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It is the nation's most widespread assistance program. For a governmental discussion of the regulations in question, see pp. 43-46 of the document cited earlier.
The author is grateful to Tova Baars, a CIS intern, for her research assistance.