Immigrants can get food assistance without risking deportation

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Southland officials say thousands of low-income, legal immigrants are refusing to apply for food assistance because they fear it’ll set them up for deportation. A new campaign is trying to convince them not to worry.

In Los Angeles County, at least 1 million people may qualify for benefits but they’re not signing up. State Welfare to Work Deputy Director Charr Lee Metsker says that’s why her department has joined federal and local jurisdictions to let people know that “the benefits will not affect anyone’s immigration status and no one is required to pay those benefits back.”

Metsker and others visited a Huntington Park farmers market, one of the places in which they say benefits would help pay for fresh food.

LA County’s Public Social Services chief Philip Brown says the food stamps program, renamed CalFresh, can help many struggling families.

“$1.7 billion worth of additional income to low income families to help stretch their budgets and to help make their funds last through the month,” says Brown.

Within the last couple of years, thousands of people in the Southland have applied to for food assistance. Organizer Cynthia Orozco is helping to encourage more to sign up.

“We show them how to plan, shop and save when they go to the grocery markets,” says Orozco. “This is a good way for the parents to bring in healthy meals into their households through the CalFresh program.”

People may apply for benefits online, over the phone or in person. Or they can catch the big mobile office when it visits farmers markets and other locations throughout LA County this month.