Immigrant families with undocumented members are increasingly choosing not to enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in response to President Donald Trump's strict stance on deportations.
On Jan. 25, Trump signed an executive order increasing the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and broadening the criteria under which undocumented immigrants are subject to deportation, CNN reports.
Immigration activists have asserted that those changes have prompted many immigrant families to opt out of SNAP benefits, The Associated Press reports.
While undocumented immigrants are already prohibited from receiving SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, many apply for the federal assistance to feed their citizen children. The Department of Agriculture estimated that 3.9 million legal-resident children with undocumented parents received SNAP assistance in 2015.
"[Undocumented immigrants] don’t want to put their name and address on a form for a government public benefit out of fear that they’ll be sought out and asked to leave," said executive director Teresa Smith of Catholic Charities of Orange County, California.
Attorney Andrew Hammond, of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, warned that these trends meant that more citizen children would go hungry.
"This means less food on the table, fewer meals in houses where the kids have rights because they are U.S. citizens," Hammond said.
Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies took issue with any suggestion that the Trump administration's deportation policies were harming legal-resident children.
"It is an attempted moral blackmail to say 'If you Americans don't give me your money, I can't stay here and feed my children,'" Krikorian said. "Well, it’s your choice. No one made you sneak into the United States."
Trump's executive order has prompted an increase in ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants who had committed no crimes other than entering the country illegally.
Between Jan. 22 and April 29, the number of ICE arrests of undocumented immigrants without a criminal record was up by 156 percent compared to the same time frame in 2016, USA Today reports.
ICE acting director Thomas Homan stated that undocumented immigrants without a criminal record are already criminals based on their non-citizen status.
"Those who do enter the country illegally, they do violate the law, that is a criminal act," Homan said.
The Trump administration's budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 called for shrinking the SNAP budget by 25 percent over the course of the next decade, The Charlotte Observer reports.