Reject Roby Amendment to Restrict Food Stamps

Media 07.11.12

Recipient: House Committee on Agriculture

Dear Member of House Committee on Agriculture:

On behalf of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, we write to express our strong opposition to the Roby amendment to the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 (the “Farm Bill”). Instead of preventing abuses in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), this amendment would cruelly prevent many eligible U.S. citizens and their families from putting food on their tables when they need help the most.

The Roby amendment would impose new stringent identification requirements on households applying for help under SNAP. It would require every adult member to meet these requirements, not just the head of household, and would cut off assistance to any household – including its children – that cannot produce adequate documentation.

Instead of keeping ineligible people from obtaining relief, the Roby amendment would cause many citizens, eligible non-citizens, and their families to be turned away. It would create serious administrative hurdles, delaying benefits for needy households who would be forced to obtain original birth certificates, and terminating benefits to individuals who cannot access them. U.S. citizens who are less likely to have a birth certificate or passport in their possession, including senior citizens, African Americans, those who live in rural areas, or those who lack a high school diploma would be particularly at risk. Others may have never been issued a birth certificate in the first place, which is particularly true for older African Americans who were born in the South.

Even worse, however, the Roby amendment would punish children – including U.S. citizens – for the actions of their parents. An estimated 4.5 million children are citizens, but have an unauthorized immigrant parent. The law currently allows these children to receive food stamps while denying them to ineligible household members, but the Roby amendment would deny aid to everyone. Instead of deterring unauthorized immigration, it would simply result in more hunger.

Moreover, the amendment is wholly unnecessary, because SNAP already has processes in place to prevent ineligible immigrants from getting food stamps. All immigrants must already verify their status with documents and a third party match with the Department of Homeland Security. Citizen applicants must provide proof of their identity and a Social Security number. States currently require applicants to be interviewed (typically face-to-face) with an eligibility worker, who is already required to ask for documentation if there is any doubt about the applicant’s status. Cases are rigorously reviewed each month (and then re-reviewed by the federal government) to make sure the eligibility workers do not make mistakes, and states are subject to penalties for errors. As a result of these safeguards, there is no evidence of significant abuses of the program by unauthorized immigrants.

While we understand the need for greater fiscal restraint, it is simply unconscionable to single out programs that help the poorest Americans among us – as the Ryan budget also does – without looking for savings or revenue increases in other areas first. As such, we strongly urge you to oppose the Roby amendment. Thank you for your consideration. If you have any questions, feel free to contact either of us, or enior Counsel Rob Randhava, at (202) 466-3311 or [email protected].


Wade Henderson
President & CEO

Nancy Zirkin
Executive Vice President