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Reform Reversed? The Restoration of Welfare Benefits to Immigrants in California

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Abstract:

The 1996 federal welfare reform legislation called for many substantial changes in the welfare system. However, some of these changes were not carefully considered, and subsequent legislation has already modified or reversed several of the original reforms. In this report, the authors examine one such instance—the denial and reinstatement of benefits to noncitizen immigrants under the federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Food Stamps programs. The authors argue that the lack of thoughtful program design was the most disturbing feature in both the denial and restoration of benefits to immigrants. If legislators are to accomplish the stated goals of welfare reform, they must develop their strategies more carefully as other opportunities for rethinking and revising the welfare system arise in the future.