Hawaii News

Hawai‘i senator introduces measures to end waiting period for immigrants seeking federal benefits

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U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) introduced legislation with fellow House Democrats to eliminate the five-year waiting period for immigrants seeking a range of federal benefits.

In 1996, Congress passed legislation that created a five-year waiting period for immigrants with lawful status to access critical benefits and services. The Lifting Immigrant Families Through Benefits Access Restoration Act eliminates the waiting period for access to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Supplemental Security Income program.

The act would also restore access to aid for Green Card holders, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, individuals granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and other lawfully present immigrants.

“For more than 25 years, unjust policies have prevented millions of lawfully present immigrants from accessing critical services and programs, including quality health care, food and housing assistance, economic support, and more,” Hirono said. “As we work to support immigrant communities in Hawai‘i and across the country, the LIFT the BAR Act will eliminate harmful barriers and allow immigrants and their families to lead healthier, safer, and more secure lives.”


Specifically, the proposed act would:

  • Reinstate access to federal public benefits for lawfully present immigrants, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, individuals granted Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and other federally authorized non-citizens residing in the United States;
  • Remove the five-year bar for Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, TANF, and SSI; and
  • Enable immigrants with sponsors to access services based on the income and resources that are actually available to them, remove state authority to impose additional restrictions on qualified immigrants, and restore flexibility for states and localities to provide benefits to immigrants with their own funds.

The proposed act was also endorsed by nearly 200 organizations.

Hirono introduced the bill with Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA). The bill was cosponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Peter Welch (D-VT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Ben Ray Luján (D-NM).



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