Expanding Benefits

We advocate for immigrant access to critical health care, nutrition, housing, and economic support programs at a national, local, and state level.


For 25 years, immigrants with green cards and other lawful immigration statuses have been denied access to federal health care, nutrition, housing, and other programs for their first five years in the United States, despite paying federal taxes during that period. That’s because in 1996, Congress passed restrictive welfare and immigration legislation that created unnecessary barriers, including an arbitrary five-year waiting period—often referred to as “the five-year bar.” Now, Congress has the opportunity to fix this injustice and restore access to public benefits by passing the LIFT the BAR Act.

Rep. Jayapal and Sen. HironoThe LIFT the BAR Act restores access to public programs like Medicaid, CHIP, and SNAP, by removing the five-year bar and other barriers that deny critical care and aid to people who are lawfully present and their families.

PIF, coalition partners, and allies are advocating for Congress to move this legislation forward to help immigrant families access quality healthcare, nutritious food, safe homes, and economic security.

PIF has also worked to educate Members of Congress about the impact of the 5-year bar on immigrants and the importance of removing it and other barriers that deny critical care and aid to people who are lawfully present. These efforts included advocating for the Lift the Bar Act creating and distributing a wide range of materials to support education and advocacy about the 5-year bar and immigrant access to benefits and organizing a Lift the Bar Week of Action, to educate public officials about the bill. PIF also continued its partnership with the HEAL Coalition, which is working to educate public officials about the HEAL for Immigrant Families Act, which would remove the 5-year bar and would also ensure access to Affordable Care Act marketplaces for a wider range of immigrants. 

State & Local

In addition to focusing on change at a national level, we know that much of the important work that affects immigrant families’ day-to-day lives happens at the state and local level. That’s why we’re committed to helping build power in communities and among the most impacted by anti-immigrant policy. 

Our State Policy working group brings together state advocates and legal and policy experts to provide analysis and develop strategies to mitigate the effect of federal policy changes and advance state and local reforms that improve safety net access for immigrant families.

We also focus on allocating a portion of our funding to state-based organizations who work on expanding benefits in their communities. Our partners combine outreach and education with advocacy at the state and local level to push for immigrant inclusion in COVID relief programs at the state and local level, excluded worker funds, expanded health coverage, expanded food access, and beyond. Many of our partners have pushed their state governments to expand language access in government services, a key exclusionary factor for many immigrant communities.

Additionally, we work with state and local officials to promote immigrant families’ access to health care, nutrition programs, and other public benefits. We developed and periodically update our Toolkit for State and Local Public Officials that provides 6 recommended actions for state and local officials to take to expand and enhance access to public benefits for immigrant families. The toolkit shares examples from states and cities of best practices and includes: