Fact Sheet Access to Safety Net Programs for North Carolina’s Spanish-Speaking Immigrant Families
Perspectives from Focus Group Participants
Diana Guelespe, Hamutal Bernstein, Jennifer M. Haley, Sofia Hinojosa, Luis H. Gallardo, Hannah Gill, Krista Perreira
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As part of a study on North Carolina immigrant families’ access to safety net programs, we led focus groups with members of immigrant families to understand their experiences applying for and accessing programs.

Over recent decades, North Carolina’s diverse immigrant population has grown, with immigrant families living in rural and urban communities across the state. Five of the top ten immigrant populations in 2021 in North Carolina hail from primarily Spanish-speaking countries, making Spanish the most spoken language among North Carolina’s immigrant population. Immigrants face restrictions on eligibility for public benefits based on their immigration status and others forgo enrolling themselves or their children in safety net programs for which they qualify, resulting in higher risk of food and health care insecurity.

In this fact sheet, we present findings from two focus groups with members of Spanish-speaking immigrant families in North Carolina. Most focus group participants lived in mixed-status immigrant families. Their major barriers in accessing safety net programs included concerns about past or changing immigration policies, documentation requirements, and lack of interpreters and Spanish-speaking staff at health and human services agencies. Solutions raised included increasing Spanish-speaking staff, interpreters, and capacity for in-person assistance; using social media as a form of outreach and education to address immigration-related concerns; and providing more orientation on benefits, including guidance for submitting income documentation for self-employed and seasonal work.

Research Areas Immigration Social safety net
Tags Immigrant access to the safety net Immigrant children, families, and communities Immigrant-serving organizations Mixed-status immigrant families Federal, state, and local immigration and integration policy Welfare and safety net programs Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program  Health equity Language access Racial and ethnic disparities Families with low incomes Health insurance
Policy Centers Health Policy Center Income and Benefits Policy Center
States North Carolina
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