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Jayapal, Hirono, Cárdenas Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Expand Public Benefits to Immigrants

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and Tony Cárdenas (CA-29) and U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) are leading lawmakers in both chambers in introducing legislation to remove harmful barriers to federal public benefits for immigrants. The Lifting Immigrant Families Through Benefits Access Restoration (LIFT the BAR) Act eliminates the current five-year waiting period for access to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. This will restore access to critical aid for Green Card holders, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, individuals granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and other lawfully present immigrants.

“As an immigrant who came to this country alone at the age of 16, I’m proud to be leading this legislation to finally eliminate cruel, xenophobic, and unreasonable barriers to health care, nutrition assistance, and other life-changing public benefits,” said Jayapal. “Immigrants and families should not have to wait to access these basic services. The LIFT the BAR Act is an urgent, necessary, and just step towards ensuring we treat immigrants with the respect they deserve.”

“Immigrants play integral roles in our communities and should not have to endure an arbitrary waiting period just to access essential benefits,” said Senator Hirono. “For more than 25 years, unjust policies have prevented millions of lawfully present immigrants from accessing critical services and programs, including quality health care, food and housing assistance, economic support, and more. As we work to support immigrant communities in Hawaii and across the country, the LIFT the BAR Act will eliminate harmful barriers and allow immigrants and their families to lead healthier, safer, and more secure lives.”

“Growing up in an immigrant family, I saw firsthand how important access to public benefits was,” said Congressman Cárdenas. “Families that are working toward a better life here in America should not have to wait five years to access resources they need to survive and thrive. Our legislation will eliminate the unnecessary waiting period for lifesaving aid and ensure our immigrant communities have the financial stability for a better future.”

In 1996, Congress passed restrictive legislation that created an arbitrary five-year waiting period for immigrants with lawful status to access critical benefits and services. Due in part to these restrictions, immigrants are significantly more likely to be uninsured, placing them at a higher risk for adverse health and financial consequences.

In 2024, non-elderly immigrants will account for an estimated 8 percent of the population yet make up 31 percent of the non-elderly uninsured population. 

“Every year, the five-year bar denies millions of families, especially families of color, the basics every family should have. Passing the LIFT the BAR Act is an essential step toward race equity, and a quarter-century is more than long enough to wait for justice. House Democrats must make this bill a priority in 2023,” said Adriana Cadena, Director, Protecting Immigrant Families.

“All of us, regardless of our immigration status, should have access to the basic tools and supports we need to be successful and productive. We are proud to support the LIFT the Bar Act, which would address an injustice that has unfairly kept tax-paying families across America from accessing critical care and assistance. Removing arbitrary barriers to health, nutritional support, housing assistance, and other important public programs would bring us closer to a society in which all of us have the freedom to thrive. We thank Reps. Jayapal and Cárdenas for their leadership in introducing LIFT the Bar, and we call on Congress to swiftly pass this commonsense policy,” said Kica Matos, President, National Immigration Law Center.

“No one should be denied access to vital medical care, food, housing, or basic income support due to their immigration status. The LIFT the BAR Act works to address exclusionary policies and ensure immigrant families have access to the supports they need to access this country’s opportunities and contribute to our nation,” said Indivar Dutta Gupta, president and executive director for the Center for Law and Social Policy. “CLASP is grateful to Representatives Jayapal and Cárdenas and Senator Hirono for their leadership in making our systems of support more equitable and effective. Immigrants are deeply integrated into this nation’s fabric. Harming immigrants harms us all.”

The LIFT the BAR Act is sponsored in the House of Representatives byPramila Jayapal (WA-07), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), Alma Adams (NC-12), Jake Auchincloss (MA-04), Nanette Diaz Barragan (CA-44), Don Beyer (VA-08), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Andre Carson (IN-07), Greg Casar (TX-35), Sean Casten (IL-06), Kathy Castor (FL-14), Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (FL-20), Judy Chu (CA-28), Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09), Emmanual Cleaver, II (MO-05), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), J. Luis Correa (CA-46), Jason Crow (CO-06), Madeleine Dean (PA-04), Diana DeGette (CO-01), Suzan DelBene (WA-01), Mark DeSaulnier (CA-10), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Dwight Evans (PA-03), Valerie Foushee (NC-04), Lois Frankel (FL-22), Ruben Gallego (AZ-03), Robert Garcia (CA-42), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Sylvia Garcia (TX-29), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Raul Grijalva (AZ-07), Jahana Hayes (CT-05), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Glenn Ivey (MD-04), Sara Jacobs (CA-51), Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (GA-04), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), Robin Kelly (IL-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Derek Kilmer (WA-06), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Summer Lee (PA-12), Ted Lieu (CA-36), Zoe Lofgren (CA-18), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Rob Menendez (NJ-08), Grace Meng (NY-06), Gwen Moore (WI-04), Seth Moulton (MA-06), Kevin Mullin (CA-15), Jerrold Nadler (NY-12), Grace Napolitano (CA-31), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-At Large), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Jimmy Panetta (CA-19), Bill Pascrell (NJ-09), Donald M. Payne (NJ-10), Scott H. Peters (CA-50), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Chellie Pingree (ME-01), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Katie Porter (CA-47), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Mike Quigley (IL-06), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Jamie Raskin (MD-08), Andrea Salinas (OR-06), Linda Sanchez (CA-38), Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Adam B. Schiff (CA-30), Terri A. Sewell (AL-07), Brad Sherman (CA-32), Adam Smith (WA-09), Darren Soto (FL-09), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Eric Swalwell (CA-14), Mark Takano (CA-39), Shri Thanedar (MI-13), Dina Titus (NV-01), Rashida Tlaib (MI-12), Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Ritchie Torres (NY-15), Norma Torres (CA-35), Lori Trahan (MA-03), David Trone (MD-06), Juan Vargas (CA-52), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Nydia Velazquez (NY-07), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Nikema Williams (GA-05), and Frederica S. Wilson (FL-24).

The legislation is also endorsed by nearly two hundred organizations, a list of which can be found here.

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