Social services available to illegal migrants in the United States, specifically in California and Texas [USA40535.E]

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) was enacted by the Clinton administration (CWF 2000; CPPP 14 Aug. 2001). According to the California Wellness Foundation, the PRWORA "fundamentally restructured the nation's safety net for poor families, limited legal immigrants' access to publicly funded benefits, and made reductions in programs designed to assist poor families" (2000). Moreover, the law also introduced new restrictions on many federally funded benefits and programs for undocumented migrants (CPPP 14 Aug. 2001; ibid. 5 May 2000).

However, according to Central Texas Immigration and Public Benefits Conference presenters Tyler Morgan, of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), and Anne Dunkelberg, of the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP), social services considered "necessary to protect life or safety" are still available nationwide to all people regardless of their immigration status (10 Oct. 2002). The federal social programs and services that are available without restrictions to immigrants whatever their status include:

- Emergency Medicaid and other emergency medical services
- Prenatal care ...
- Immunizations
- Testing and treatment for symptoms of communicable diseases (outside of the Medicaid program)
- Short-term non-cash disaster relief
- Certain housing assistance if receiving on 8/22/96
- WIC, School Lunch, School Breakfast, Summer Food Service Program and Child and Adult Care Food Program ...
- Programs delivered at the community level, that do not condition assistance on income or resources and are necessary to protect life or safety (ibid., 15).

Many states, including California, responded to the reduction in social services under the PRWORA by creating their own state-funded programs for immigrants (CWF 2000). Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate on 19 December 2002, by a lawyer at the National Immigration Law Center, states that

... California provides prenatal care, long-term care, certain programs for persons with developmental disabilities, a breast/cervical cancer treatment program, a children's immunization/health screening program, and access to certain housing programs, regardless of immigration status. ... And, a few counties in California provide health care to children regardless of status.

With regard to Texas, the lawyer added that "Texas provides whatever is required by or provided by federal law, and not much else" (NILC 19 Dec. 2002). In correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, a senior policy analyst from the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Texas provided the following information on health coverage for undocumented migrants:

Other than emergency care, there is no guarantee of access to routine, or even life-preserving health care for undocumented immigrants. Urban Texas counties vary in the extent to which they will provide free or low-cost care to the undocumented. Smaller counties are required to cover them only at extraordinarily low incomes....
It is important to understand that TP 30 Emergency Medicaid coverage does NOT always pay for health care needed to prevent death, such as nursing home care, kidney dialysis, organ transplants, or cancer treatment. When undocumented immigrants or post 1996 legal permanent residents at Medicaid income need these services, they must rely entirely on private charities in Texas to help them (14 Jan. 2003).

No information regarding any additional Texas-funded social programs or services for undocumented migrants were provided by the source.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


California Wellness Foundation (CWF). 2000. "Devolution: Where We've Been." Reflections: On the Impact of Devolution on California. [Accessed 13 Jan. 2003]

Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP). 14 January 2003. Correspondence sent by a senior policy analyst representing the Center.

_____. 14 August 2001. The Policy Page. No. 138. "The Straight Story: Health Care for Uninsured Undocumented Immigrants in Texas." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2003]

_____. 5 May 2000. "Undocumented Immigrants and Health Benefits: Inclusion of Undocumented Persons by Texas Indigent Health Care Providers." [Accessed 13 Jan. 2003]

Moran, Tyler and Anne Dunkelberg. 10 October 2002. "Public Benefits and Immigrants." Presentation at the Central Texas Immigration and Public Benefits Conference, Austin, Texas. [Accessed 13 Jan. 2003]

National Immigration Law Center (NILC). 19 December 2002. Correspondence sent by a lawyer representing the Center.