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DHS immigration database will enable State of California to determine eligibility of its food stamp applicants

In an effort to determine whether applicants for food stamps, supplemental nutrition or “assistance for needy families” are eligible for such benefits, the State of California’s department of social services (CA-DSS) will deploy a computer matching program against a database supplied by DHS which indicates the immigration status of the California residents seeking such help.

“The immigration status information will enable CA-DSS to determine whether an applicant is eligible for benefits under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) program administered by CA-DSS,” explains a notice published by the office of the secretary of DHS in the Federal Register on June 27.

Under a computer matching agreement signed by California’s department of social services and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a unit of DHS, USCIS is required to make available a “Verification Information System,” or VIS, which collects information about the immigration status of aliens, applicants, petitioners and beneficiaries with whom that federal agency has come into contact. Under various U.S. laws, state agencies are required to use the VIS to make their eligibility determinations “in order to prevent the issuance of benefits to alien applicants who are not entitled to program benefits because of their immigration status,” says the DHS notice.

Under the computer matching program, USCIS will match the following records with California’s records: alien registration number, full name, date of birth, country of birth (but not nationality), social security number (if available), immigration status data and employment eligibility data.

The computer matching program between USCIS and the State of California will become effective in about one month, and will continue for 18 months, says the notice.

“CA-DSS has elected to use VIS for all alien applicants for Food Stamps for the length of this agreement,” the notice.

Further information about this computer matching program is available from Jonathan Cantor, the acting chief privacy officer at DHS, at 202-343-1717.



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