Because a portion of Alabama’s harmful immigration law makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to enter into a “business transaction” with the state, some public utility companies have interpreted this measure so broadly that they have prevented undocumented immigrants from receiving water or power at their homes. And a library has even required people show proof of citizenship before they can sign up for a library card because of the “business transactions” provision.
Now U.S.-born children with undocumented immigrant parents even have been denied food stamps because of this portion of the anti-immigrant law. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that five people have called the group’s hotline to report that they were denied food stamps under the law because of their immigration status even though the benefits are for their American citizen children. SPLC President Richard Cohen said the civil rights group is considering suing the state over the denial of food stamps because of the “business transactions” portion in HB 56. Barry Spear, a spokesman for Alabama’s Department of Human Services, told Yahoo News that demanding proof of citizenship from the guardians of Americans who need food stamps is not the agency’s policy. “We are unaware of any violations of the policy,” Spear said.
But last month, Kansas changed its food aid program to deny benefits to children who are citizens if their parents are undocumented, removing more than 1,000 mixed families. “This policy not only hurts these families, it hurts us, too, especially because we’re talking about U.S. citizen children,” said Elena Morales, who works at El Center, an anti-poverty agency in Kansas City.
In the U.S., roughly 4.5 million American citizens under 18 years old have at least one undocumented parent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. So while undocumented immigrants cannot access most welfare programs, their children are still able to access the programs as citizens. Policies like the one in Kansas and the interpretation of Alabama’s immigration law only serves to harm these American citizens who, through no fault of their own, happen to have undocumented parents.