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Federal Policies Restrict Immigrant Children’s Access to Key Public Benefits

Author: Kinsey Alden Dinan
Publication Date: October 2005

This is an excerpt from the full brief.

About 20 percent of this country’s children—nearly 17 million—have at least one foreign-born parent. These children are more likely to be low income and to experience other hardships than children with native-born parents. Altogether, children of immigrants comprise more than 26 percent of all low-income children in the United States. However, they are less likely than other children to benefit from government programs designed to assist low-income families.

The federal government sets U.S. immigration policies that regulate the flow of immigrants into the United States. The federal government also bears primary responsibility for immigrant policies that determine the treatment of immigrants within the nation, although in recent years much of this responsibility has been shifted onto the states. Both types of policies have important implications for the economic security of immigrant families and set the context for state and local policy choices regarding immigrant children and their families.

This brief is the first in a series that explores key policy issues related to children in low-income immigrant families. It provides an overview of federal policies that affect immigrant families’ access to key income and employment supports.