Immigrants Rights and Public Benefits

Immigrants are woven into the cultural, civic, and economic fabric of New Mexico. One in ten New Mexicans is an immigrant, and one in nine have immigrant parents. Immigrant families provide essential and critical contributions to our economy, labor force, and tax base yet  face unfair barriers to programs that help families with basic needs. The Center has provided expertise and advocacy for over a decade to improve the public benefits program for immigrant families. We have expertise on the complex rules that determine whether immigrants are eligible for each program, and we provide important information to help community members and advocates navigate the system. Please call us if you have any questions about your eligibility for a program below.

Many immigrants qualify for public benefits in New Mexico Immigrant Eligibility Chart
Public benefit programs help families meet basic needs, like food, healthcare, and child care. Immigrants that meet income and other requirements can get benefits if they are a status that qualifies. The requirements are different for each program.


  • Medicaid: free or low-cost medical coverage. (How to Apply) (Immigrant Eligibility English Spanish)
  • Emergency Medicaid: Available to immigrants who do not usually qualify for Medicaid (English) (Spanish)
  • Healthcare Access for Immigrants that Don’t Qualify for Other Coverage (English) (Spanish)
  • Medical Clinics and Care providing free and discounted care

Food Assistance (How to Apply) (Immigrant Eligibility)

  • Previously called the Food Stamp program, provides assistance to purchase food.

Cash Assistance (How to Apply) (Immigrant Eligibility)

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): a cash assistance program for low-income families with children, which offers other services such as vocational training and job placement for unemployed parents.
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI): A federal cash assistance program that supports low-income seniors and people who are blind or have disabilities.

Child Care Assistance (How to Apply) (Immigrant Eligibility)

  • Helps parents pay for childcare costs.

Getting benefits will not trigger a public charge test for many immigrants
Public charge is a test to see if someone applying for a green card or a visa is likely to use public benefits, and being labeled a “public charge” can impact immigration decisions by the U.S. government. We strongly oppose the recent changes to these rules. However, the test does not apply to most people that qualify for benefits. Public charge laws do not apply to immigrants naturalizing to become citizens or lawful permanent residents who apply to become U.S. citizens. For more information, read our fact sheet: (English) (Spanish)

Public Charge never applies to:

  • COVID-19 testing and treatment
  • Children, 21 years and younger and pregnant women who use Medicaid
  • Refugees, asylees, survivors of trafficking, survivors of domestic violence and other serious crimes, special immigrant juvenile status and others.
  • Use of emergency Medicaid, WIC, school lunches, food banks, shelters, state or local health care programs, and many more.

Important Rights for Immigrant Families Seeking Benefits

  • If you do not qualify, you can apply and receive benefits for other family members.
  • Immigration status and social security are only required for family members that will receive benefits. For example, children may be able to receive benefits even if their parents do not qualify for the program.
  • Social Security Numbers may not be required to get approved.
  • You have a right to prove household income in different ways.
  • You have a right to get application help in the language you speak.