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Master's Professional Reports Abstract

Restricting Legal Immigrant Public Assistance Eligibility: Implications for Immigrant Policy in Texas

Currently, legal immigrants are eligible for public assistance from the time they arrive in the United States. However, the 104th Congress is considering welfare and immigration reform legislation that would restrict legal immigrants' public assistance eligibility by federal mandate of state option. Such federal proposals represent a shift in state responsibility and discretion for immigrant policy. If denied federal public assistance, legal immigrants' needs will not go away and they will likely turn to state and local programs for assistance. In addition, if the state option withstands an equal protection challenge, states for the first time will be able to discriminate against legal immigrants when determining eligibility for public assistance programs. Federal reform will have the greatest impact in high immigrant states such as Texas both in terms of immigrant well-being and state finances. Texas government officials and service providers need to be aware of the potential impacts of pending federal legislation so that they will be prepared for the state's increased role in formulating and funding immigrant policy.

--Author's foreword.