Could undocumented WIC participants face immigration issues?

Could undocumented WIC participants face immigration issues?

Claudia Buccio

Social services such as the women, infants, and children special supplemental nutrition program, better known as WIC, benefit hundreds of undocumented immigrant mothers and their U.S.-born children.

A couple of months ago, the Trump Administration has proposed to expand the programs considered to be public charges, potentially making it harder for immigrants to apply for a visa or for a green card.

Maria Quezada is part of the legal assistance team at TODEC, a non-profit that serves immigrant community.

“A public charge is someone who primarily depends on the government for help whether it be food assistance or cash assistance,” she explained.

As of now, WIC does not fall under the category of public charges, so if an immigrant woman needs to use this service, she shouldn’t be scared of using it. At the end of the day the service is for the child regardless of his or her parents immigration status.

While legislators are still considering this proposal, the reality is that undocumented parents who use WIC for their children are not jeopardizing their status.     

Megan Beaman-Jacinto is a civil rights attorney who serves the community in the Coachella Valley.

“The use of benefits such as food stamps or Medical for which people are eligible and that are not a type of income but rather a type of low income assistance,” she said. “Those don’t detrimentally affect people for the future as long as they receive them properly, not through the use of fraud and not in an illegal way.”

Legal experts recommend families continue applying for these benefits.

“When the mother or the father is asking for that benefit is not that they are asking it for themselves, they are asking it for the child who is going to need it.”

Beaman-Jacinto said that often times, there is a common misconception that undocumented immigrants are draining the system, but she said that that is not the case because “undocumented people in general don’t qualify for any benefits.”

In a statement, the Riverside University Health System-Public Health, which runs the WIC program in Riverside County said the following: “the WIC program serves about 13,600 participants within the Coachella Valley each month and we have not seen any significant changes in participation.”