Eligible But Afraid — Immigrant Families and Food Assistance
Fewer immigrant mothers of young children are receiving food assistance, even if they are eligible, new research reports . A new study of low-income mothers of children four and younger found a 10% drop in food assistance since 2017 for families who had been in the U.S. for less than five years.
The study didn’t determine the reason that fewer families with young children are getting assistance, but child health advocates are concerned that fear among immigrant families is behind the drop–they are not applying for the food assistance they need. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “good nutrition during pregnancy and childhood decreases the risk of prematurity, fetal or infant death, anemia and subsequent obesity and other chronic illnesses.” Nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life can harm brain development and function for the rest of their lives.
This is one of the reasons that a proposed rule change by the Trump Administration troubles public health, nutrition, and early childhood advocates. For many years, U.S. immigration laws have denied permanent residence to immigrants who would be unlikely to support themselves and would become “public charges.” The Trump Administration’s proposal would massively expand this definition, encompassing not only cash welfare assistance, but also food assistance and health care. Immigrant families, even those whose children are U.S. citizens, are already facing the choice between accessing needed food assistance or medical care, or possibly being deported. This rule change would only force more impossible choices for these families.