Earlier this month, President Joe Biden took necessary action to undo some of the harm inflicted on immigrant communities by the Trump Administration. The White House released an Executive Order directing government agencies to review the changes to public charge regulations, which have driven millions of immigrants to forego vital health and nutrition services for their families out of fear.
We applaud the Biden administration’s commitment to promoting policies of immigrant inclusion along with other important investments in the nutrition safety net.
“Chilling Effect” Prevents Families from Seeking Vital Health and Nutrition Support
We witnessed the impact of the Trump Administration’s discriminatory policy changes firsthand, as dozens of parents and individuals flooded our CalFresh Outreach lines to cancel their food benefits out of fear of being deported. Approximately 10.4 million people in California, including 3.1 million children, live in families with at least one noncitizen in the household. Many of these families have chosen to avoid food and health assistance of any kind, fearing that their children will be forced to pay back the benefits or that they would be deported.
Though the majority of immigrants are not subject to the public charge rule, its “chilling effect” has had widespread impacts in our state. Research shows that about 6.8 million people in California could have been deterred from public programs because of immigration-related consequences. Even before the pandemic, people who were undocumented were more likely to experience food insecurity, and children of newly arrived immigrants were at increased risk of poor health outcomes due to lack of access to nutritional food
Food Bank Stands with Immigrant Communities
The Food Bank has taken a strong stance in opposition to the harmful public charge rule changes since they were first released. We stand by the statement our former Executive Director, Paul Ash, made in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle: “We become stronger, more compassionate, and more productive communities when our neighbors are able to access the services they need to thrive without fear.”
More Work is Needed
This is an exciting first step in repairing the damage done by this and other policy attacks on immigrants, but it will not immediately reverse the harm done to immigrant families nor eliminate their distrust of our nutrition and health safety net.
Our Policy & Advocacy and Programs teams will continue the vital work, both in the halls of government and out in our communities, of healing the harm of these policies. If you’re interested in learning more about policy solutions to include immigrants and their families here in California, sign up for Action Alerts from our partners at Nourish California: Food4All Immigrants Campaign