Senator Hirono and Colleagues Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Housing, Health Care, Nutrition Assistance, and Other Supports for Immigrants

Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Patty Murray (D-WA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the “Lifting Immigrant Families through Benefits Access Restoration Act of 2022” (S.4311) – known as the “LIFT the BAR Act” – on May 25. The bill would restore access to public programs for lawfully present immigrants by removing a five-year waiting period and other restrictions to accessing federal public benefits.

The “LIFT the BAR Act” would repeal harmful barriers created by the “Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996” (PRWORA). PRWORA created an arbitrary five-year waiting period for immigrants to access vital healthcare and social service programs, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and certain housing assistance programs, including public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and some rural housing programs. These barriers stoked fear and confusion among immigrants and their families, reducing participation in essential social safety net programs.

The LIFT the BAR Act would amend PRWORA to align Section 214 of the “Housing and Community Development Act of 1980” with consistent eligibility requirements for recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), immigrants who are granted Special Immigrant Status (SIJS), and any other non-citizens federally authorized to be present in the U.S. If enacted, the “LIFT the BAR Act” would restore access to vital safety net programs for lawfully present immigrants by:

  • Repealing key provisions of PRWORA that (1) restrict lawfully present immigrants’ eligibility for federal assistance programs; (2) allow states to adopt more punitive restrictions; (3) erect barriers for states or localities that wish to use their funds to establish more inclusive programs; and (4) restrict or deter access to critical services for immigrants with sponsors.
  • Removing the five-year waiting period for those wishing to access Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP, TANF, and SSI.
  • Redefining “qualified noncitizens,” a phrase used to define eligibility for many federal programs, to include any individuals who are lawfully present in the U.S.
  • Establishing that individuals who have access to Affordable Care Act health insurance under current rules will not lose access to affordable coverage if they remain ineligible for Medicaid.

NLIHC supports the Senate bill and its House companion, which was introduced by Representatives Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) in September 2021 (see Memo, 9/13/2021). NLIHC earlier joined over 500 national, state, and local organizations in a national sign-on letter in support of the “LIFT the BAR Act.” The letter will be re-issued following the introduction of Senator Hirono’s bill.

“By denying health care and aid to otherwise-eligible people who are lawfully present, the five-year bar sets a dangerous precedent that makes the social safety net inaccessible to millions of families of color,” the letter states. “President Biden took a major step forward in ending the harmful public charge policy, but we must work proactively towards addressing a much longer standing injustice by ending the five-year bar. By doing so, Congress will be helping millions of immigrants who are lawfully present and their families to get the quality healthcare, nutritious food, safe homes, and economic security every family needs to thrive.”

Learn more about the “LIFT the BAR Act” at:

View the sign-on letter calling on Congress to enact the “LIFT the BAR Act” at: