MONTGOMERY - The chief attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center has sent a letter to state officials expressing concern that in some counties officials are using the new immigration law to deny food stamps to children of illegal immigrants.

Attorney Mary Bauer of the SPLC said in the letter some children have been denied food stamp benefits in Jefferson and Marshall Counties because there was no documentation their parents were legal citizens. Bauer said the children were U.S. citizens and were authorized to receive food stamps.

Bauer said confusion over what is required by the new law, adopted by the Legislature last year, "is now literally taking food out of the mouths of U.S. citizen children."

The letter demands that DHR make it clear to county officials not to refuse to issue food stamps to eligible children who are U.S. citizens.

DHR spokesman Barry Spear said the agency can't find records of incidents where legal citizens have been denied food stamps.

"We sent them a letter asking them to identify the people who this has happened to," Spear said. He said DHR has not received a response from the SPLC. He said DHR officials are aware that children born in this country are U.S. citizens and if eligible can legally receive food stamps even if their parents are illegal immigrants.

In the letter to DHR officials, Bauer asks that all workers who issue food stamps be informed that they are not to inquire about the immigration status of the parents of children who are legal residents.