"Subliminal" Trump policy driving illegals off federal programs

Say, did you hear about that new Donald Trump program which will prevent immigrants from receiving green cards or make illegal aliens easier to track down and deport if they sign up for programs like food stamps? Me neither, because there is no such program. (It’s been discussed but hasn’t gone anywhere.) But that hasn’t stopped rumors from making the rounds on the streets and it has “undocumented” immigrants (as well as valid visa holders, sadly) calling up their local officials and demanding to be removed from the rolls of programs such as WIC. (Politico)

Immigrants are turning down government help to buy infant formula and healthy food for their young children because they’re afraid the Trump administration could bar them from getting a green card if they take federal aid.

Local health providers say they’ve received panicked phone calls from both documented and undocumented immigrant families demanding to be dropped from the rolls of WIC, a federal nutrition program aimed at pregnant women and children, after news reports that the White House is potentially planning to deny legal status to immigrants who’ve used public benefits. Agencies in at least 18 states say they’ve seen drops of up to 20 percent in enrollment, and they attribute the change largely to fears about the immigration policy.

The Trump administration hasn’t officially put the policy in place yet, but even without a formal rule, families are already being scared away from using services, health providers say.

One immigration attorney from El Paso is quoted as saying, “It’s a stealth regulation. It doesn’t really exist, but it’s being applied subliminally.” So this is a “subliminal program?”

That’s quite the complaint, I must say. Presidential administrations discuss new programs and regulations all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to happen. I’d kind of hoped that all the talk of Trump building a wall would massively cut back on people coming to try to illegally cross the border. But the lack of an actual, you know… wall showing up in most places seems to have blunted the desired effect.

This unofficial, non-existent policy is producing both positive and negative results. Most government benefit programs of this type, such as SNAP for one example, are not supposed to be available to illegal immigrants. The only people eligible are those who are a U.S. citizen or an eligible, lawfully-present non-citizen. But some states, such as Illinois, have gotten around this by instituting policies which forbid government employees from asking about a person’s immigration status when they apply. Illegal aliens shouldn’t be receiving such benefits, so if these rumors are causing them to remove themselves from the rolls, I suppose that’s just an unintended bonus.

But if eligible immigrants awaiting the processing of their requests are unenrolling, that’s a problem. The question is, what are we supposed to do about it?

The government is charged with educating the public about available programs which may be of help to them. But are they responsible for telling people that imaginary programs don’t exist? An interesting question to say the least. They could spend all their days chasing down rumors and batting them down like some sort of whack-a-mole game. It sounds as if most of the action is taking place via people calling in to their local offices and asking to be removed. If the workers handling these calls are trained to tell the people with valid paperwork that they have nothing to worry about, the problem should really take care of itself.

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