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Public Benefits: Laws & Policies

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National laws and policies often affect the challenges faced or opportunities created in your community. The following laws and policies about public benefits may inspire insight, understanding or change through community activism.


Agricultural Research, Extension and Education Reform Act of 1998
Restored food stamp eligibility to groups of immigrants who were lawfully present in the U.S. on August 22, 1996 including: disabled people; children; adults who were at least sixty-five years; cross-border Native Americans; and members of Hmong or Highland Lao tribes. The act also extended from five to seven years the period of food stamp eligibility for refugees, asylees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, Amerasians, and persons granted withholding of deportation.


Noncitizen Benefit Clarification and Other Technical Amendments Act of 1998
The Welfare Reform Technical Corrections Act provided that nonqualified aliens who were receiving SSI on August 22, 1996, may continue to receive SSI and Medicaid (if their eligibility for Medicaid is based on their eligibility for SSI) as long as they continue to meet all other eligibility requirements for benefits.


Balanced Budget Act of 1997
Restored SSI eligibility to groups who were lawfully present in the United States on August 22, 1996 including: people who are disabled or blind; those receiving SSI on August 22, 1996; people whose applications for benefits predated January 1, 1979; cross-border Native Americans; and members of Hmong or Highland Lao tribes who provided assistance to U.S. military forces during the Vietnam War. The act also extended from five to seven years the period of SSI eligibility for refugees, asylees, Cuban/Haitian entrants, Amerasians, and persons granted withholding of deportation.


Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996
The Welfare Reform Act created a distinction between “qualified” and “nonqualified” aliens for purposes of benefit eligibility, and it imposed limits—in some cases bans—on all aliens’ eligibility for benefits.


Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996
The Immigration Reform Act expanded the definition of “qualified aliens” to include certain battered immigrant spouses and children. It also directed the U.S. Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human services, to develop procedures for verifying citizenship or immigration status when such verification is required.

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