Wary immigrants in Georgia drop food stamps

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Wary immigrants in Georgia drop food stamps

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Bob Andres/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
April 17, 2017 - Roswell - Clients wait in the lobby of one of the North Fulton Community Charities offices for help with medicaid applications. The NFCC has seen a drop in legal immigrants seeking food stamps. These immigrants, who are eligible under the law to receive food stamps, are going so far as to drop out of the program when time comes for them to renew their benefits out of fear that signing up will be used to deport them or prevent them from becoming citizens. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Significantly fewer immigrants have been signing up for food stamps at the Latin American Association in Atlanta since Donald Trump became president in January, including the parents of U.S. citizen children.

The Buckhead Christian Ministry — which feeds and clothes needy families — has also seen substantially fewer Hispanic clients this year. And the adult caregivers for a pair of unaccompanied Central American children declined to register for food stamps this year, according to Catholic Charities Atlanta. Both adults were in the country without authorization. 

Whether they are here legally or illegally, some immigrants are saying they have been spooked by a political climate they see as hostile, and they are thinking twice about applying for food stamps. Some are dropping the federally funded benefits by not reapplying for them, according to metro Atlanta service providers. 

The immigrants’ concerns about deportation and citizenship appear to be unsubstantiated. And while charity agencies say they are still seeing numerous immigrants sign up for food stamps, the Trump administration’s stepped-up rhetoric and enforcement has sowed concern. So some are hunkering down, avoiding government aid. 

“They’re all scared,” said Darlene Duke, executive director of the Sweetwater Mission in Austell. “They’re concerned about anything they do that can raise a red flag. They’re laying low.” 

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