Accessing Resources: Public Benefits
Federal benefits: Services “to protect life and safety”
The Welfare Reform Act exempts certain programs from (1) any restrictions on immigrant access and (2) from requirements to verify/report the immigration status of any persons who seek or receive program services. Programs that meet these criteria are required to provide services to all persons without regard to their immigration status:
- Crisis counseling and intervention programs
- Services and assistance relating to child protection and adult protective services
- Violence and abuse prevention
- Services to victims of domestic violence or other criminal activity
- Short-term shelter or housing assistance (transitional housing for up to two years) for people who are homeless, victims of domestic violence, and runaway, abused, or abandoned children
- Programs to help individuals during periods of adverse weather conditions;
- Soup kitchens and community food banks
- Senior nutrition programs and other nutritional programs for persons requiring special assistance
- Medical and public health services necessary to protect life or safety
- Mental health, disability, or substance abuse assistance necessary to protect life and safety
- Activities designed to protect the life and safety of workers, children, and youths or community residents
- Any other programs, services, or assistance necessary for the protection of life or safety
In addition, all persons, regardless of immigration status, may be eligible for the following:
- Programs funded with federal dollars that are not clearly identified as “federal means-tested public benefits” or “federal public benefits” have no immigration restrictions and are fully open to all persons, regardless of immigration status. All persons may receive the program’s services and support, and no immigration questions should be asked.
- Programs provided by nonprofit charitable organizations, including those that receive federal funds. Non-profit organizations that receive federal funds are (1) prohibited from discriminating on the basis of national origin, (2) explicitly exempted from immigration status restrictions in the welfare and immigration laws; and (3) not required to determine, verify or otherwise require proof of immigration status under these laws.
Tools & Resources
“Programs open to immigrant victims and all immigrants without regard to immigration status” by the National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project and the State Justice Institute.
“HHS-funded programs open to all immigrants” (see pages 482-488) in the manual Empowering Survivors: Legal Rights of Immigrant Victims of Sexual Assaultprovides a complete list of all programs funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services that are available to all people, regardless of immigration status.