SPLC claims Ala DHR is discriminating against immigrant children - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

SPLC claims Ala. DHR discrimination

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Are immigrant children, legal U.S. residents, being discriminated against by the Alabama Department of Human Resources?

The Southern Poverty Law Center accuses DHR of denying the childrens' parents access to food stamps and other government assistance, even though the youngsters were born in the U.S.

SPLC's Mary Bauer says the confusion surrounding Alabama's anti-immigrant law is taking food out of the mouths of low-income U.S. citizen children.

"We have been hearing from both families and advocates that it's a serious problem," she said. 

Bauer says, in particular, in Jefferson and Marshall counties, one DHR employee is alleged to have forced a parent to answer questions regarding their immigration status and even threatened to call immigration authorities.

"It doesn't depend under the law on the status of their parents. And using HB56 as a justification to deny citizen children food is illegal," Bauer said.

Bauer says DHR needs to address the discriminatory claims.

"We'd like to see a written directive to all of these offices that administer these programs so that everyone understands what the rules are," Bauer said.

Barry Spear with the Department of Human Resources says no one has contacted the department with these claims, and he says if such practices are taking place, they should be stopped immediately.

"That's something that we certainly would not condone any of our clients doing," Spear said.

Spear says DHR requested the names of those individuals involved with this alleged discrimination, and so far has not gotten a response.

"If they're eligible, we want to get those benefits to them. That's what we do," Bauer said.

Bauer says the intimidation has to stop.

"These families have been very frightened by what they have been told and we want to make sure it's safe for them to go back to those offices," Bauer said.

Both the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Department of Human Resources are waiting for responses from one another.

SPLC says if DHR fails to comply by Friday, it will pursue further legal action.

DHR posted a statement on its website:

"In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, religion, political beliefs, or disability."

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