The House State Government Committee this week approved legislation that includes language authored by Rep. Doyle Heffley (R-Carbon) that would prohibit illegal immigrants from possessing and using state ACCESS benefit cards.

ACCESS cards are issued by the state to those individuals who are eligible for Medical Assistance and also can be used in a similar fashion to a debit card for those who have been approved to receive cash assistance and/or food stamps. "The occurrence of illegal immigrants being discovered to have ACCESS cards is continuing to escalate, and law enforcement is asking for laws to be put in place to help them do their jobs and provide them with the authority to address the issue," said Heffley. "Illegal immigration is a serious problem and we do not want these individuals fraudulently siphoning public benefits away from legal residents who truly need state assistance."

Heffley's language, which was adopted as part of Senate Bill 9, explicitly prohibits any illegal immigrant from possessing, using or attempting to use an ACCESS card or other electronic benefit transfer card. Any person who violates the prohibition would be charged with a third-degree felony. "I was pleased that language from a bill I authored was adopted as part of Senate Bill 9," said Heffley. "The Senate legislation, which establishes the Proof of Citizenship for Receipt of Public Benefits Act, dovetails nicely with the intent of my original bill. I am hopeful the full House will vote in favor of Senate Bill 9 in the near future and that it will be sent on to the governor to be signed into law."