Some Los Angeles County immigrants who are eligible for food assistance programs are staying away because they fear enrollment will hurt their chances of becoming a permanent U.S. citizen or even lead to deportation, county officials said Wednesday.
The annual CalFresh Awareness campaign was launched this month by Los Angeles County’s Department of Public Social Services. The program helps low-income families and individuals buy fresh food with an Electronic Benefit Transfer or EBT card in stores, farmers markets and participating restaurant chains. U.S. citizens and legal residents are eligible to apply for the CalFresh program.
But many who qualify are staying away. The reason, officials say, is the term “public charge.” A public charge is a non-U.S. citizen who is likely to become dependent on public assistance, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There are many factors that are considered, but if a person is deemed a public charge, he or she may be disqualified from becoming a citizen and ultimately deported.