Reporter H. Claire Brown at the New Food Economy has a troubling, but unsurprising story about the damage that the combination of Trump rhetoric and threats of new restrictive new Republican policies on immigration and assistance to people in need are wreaking with low-income immigrant families.
Preliminary data from a survey of more than 35,000 mothers of young children indicate a nearly 10 percent drop in SNAP enrollment among immigrant families who are eligible.
The findings, presented Monday at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting, found that immigrant mothers’ participation in SNAP steadily increased from 2007 to 2017. Then, in the first half of 2018, the numbers suddenly dropped—by a lot. In 2017, 43 percent of eligible families who had been in the country for less than five years were participating in the program. By mid-2018, that figure had plummeted to 34.8 percent.
Allison Bovell-Ammon, lead researcher for the study and deputy director of policy strategy at Boston Medical Center’s Children’s HealthWatch, emphasized that SNAP eligibility rules didn’t change between 2017 and 2018, so the drop is likely due to families’ fear of potential repercussions for receiving food aid. “These findings demonstrate that rhetoric and the threat of policy changes, even before changes are enacted, may be causing families to forego nutrition assistance,” she said in a press release.
In April, Harvest Public Media reported that anti-hunger advocates had begun sharing anecdotal evidence that immigrants were dropping out of SNAP over fear of deportation. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for the program, but if they have dependents who were born in the U.S., their children can receive food stamps. Though an early leaked version of the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule hinted that dependents’ SNAP use would be considered in determining a family’s immigration status, the final published rule indicated that only adults’ SNAP participation would be factored in.
As the year wore on, further indications that the current political climate might be affecting immigrant use of food benefits began to trickle in. Politico reported in September that agencies in 18 states have seen as much as a 20 percent drop in enrollment for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food assistance to new mothers. Food banks also reported their clients’ confusion and concern about registering for SNAP use….
On Monday, conservative news outlet Breitbart reported what it surely considered to be Trump-related good news—not related, certainly, to the recent spate of work requirements: Nationwide SNAP enrollment is at its lowest in nearly a decade. More than 3 million people have left the program since the president’s first full month in office. Meanwhile, according to the Boston Medical Center research, food insecurity among immigrant families who have been in the country for less than five years has risen from 9.9 percent in 2007 to 17.8 percent today.
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