All U.S. citizens and eligible immigrants should be able to access food stamps and other benefits without fear of family separation. However, Michigan’s immigrant communities may have heard rumors of a new Department of Human Services (DHS) policy that would require DHS employees to report anyone who they are told is an undocumented immigrant to homeland security. There is no new change to DHS policy regarding reporting undocumented aliens to homeland security.
This is what Happened:
Earlier this year, Michigan’s Department of Human Services (DHS) told their employees that starting October 1, 2011, when individuals came in to apply for food stamps or State Emergency Relief (SER), “any time a client tells DHS that the client or anyone else in their home is an illegal alien, the illegal alien has to be reported to homeland security.” Fear of this new policy spread rapidly through immigrant communities, and advocates across the state immediately responded by pressuring DHS to clarify publicly that this is not their new policy. In response to this reaction, DHS informed advocates that they sent an email to DHS managers explaining that the new policy requiring DHS staff to report undocumented aliens to homeland security was incorrect and should be disregarded by all DHS employees.
DHS’s ACTUAL Policy:
DHS only reports an undocumented alien to homeland security if they have clear knowledge of that person’s undocumented status. Generally, this means that the DHS employee must physically see a deportation order issued by an immigration judge. DHS will not ask to see a deportation order, and you should never bring a deportation order for anyone into a DHS office.
DHS policy and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 strictly limit any questions regarding the immigration status of non-applicants who are in the same household as applicants for benefits. Undocumented, non-applicant household members should not tell DHS any information about immigration status. It is not true that DHS’s computer system needs the immigration status of non-applicants to process the application for household members who are applying.
How It Works
Let’s say you are an undocumented parent with U.S. citizen children and your household income is low enough to qualify for food stamps for your U.S. citizen children. Because they are children, you must go to the DHS office to apply for them. Though you are actually the person filling out the forms, you are a “non-applicant” because you are not applying for any benefits for yourself.
• DHS can ask you about the status of any applicants for benefits. In this case, your children.
• DHS cannot ask you about the immigration status of any non-applicants. In this case, that means you and any other non-citizen in your house who is not applying for benefits. If DHS does ask, simply state: “I am not applying for benefits.” It is not true that DHS’s computer needs your immigration status to process the application for benefits.
• DHS can ask you about your income and ask you to provide pay stubs to prove that your household qualifies.
• DHS can ask about what property you own (cars, houses) and how much money you have saved in the bank. This is new information DHS must use to determine if your household is eligible.
Anyone who is requested to provide immigration status information about non-applicants or who is threatened or warned of immigration consequences by DHS should contact the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center at (269) 942-7196 or 1-800-968-4046. Most legal aid and legal services offices handle these types of cases, and they do not charge a fee. You can locate various sources of legal and related services, including the free legal aid office that serves your county, at MichiganLegalAid.org.