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Many immigrant families face an array of barriers to enrolling in safety net programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Some are universal structural barriers that many program applicants confront navigating complex enrollment systems. Others are unique challenges around immigration concerns and language access. Understanding who these families are is the first step for community leaders, including state and local policymakers and health and human services agencies, to ensure access to programs for those who are eligible and to provide culturally and linguistically responsive assistance to support immigrants and their children.

Krista M. Perreira
Krista M. Perreira

A new study led by co-Principal Investigators Hamutal Bernstein, PhD, senior fellow, and Jennifer Haley, MA, principal research associate, at the Urban Institute, in collaboration with Krista Perreira, PhD, professor of social medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, and Hannah Gill, PhD, at the UNC Institute for the Study of the Americas, explored these critical issues, with support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust.

Findings are based on interviews with more than 40 state- and county-based stakeholders and four multilingual focus groups with immigrants. The authors identified common barriers to safety net participation for immigrant families in North Carolina and challenges faced by immigrant-serving organizations and health and human services agencies. They recommended solutions to create a more inclusive safety net for North Carolina’s immigrant families.

Their findings are available in an Urban Institute report entitled “Supporting North Carolina’s Immigrant Families: Addressing Barriers and Promoting Solutions for a More Inclusive Safety Net,” as well as three fact sheets highlighting specific lessons for supporting Spanish, Hmong, and Swahili speakers. In addition, they developed an interactive county-level data tool to spotlight characteristics of immigrant residents to inform more effective policy and practice.

Perreira is a Faculty Fellow at the Carolina Population Center.

Fact Sheets