Sonoma County California is reporting a two-year decline in the number of people getting food stamps as the result of an improving economy in the state and President Donald Trump’s efforts to stop the flood of illegal immigration into the country.
“Deportation fears in the local immigrant community are prompting a growing number of immigrant families to withdraw from a state program that subsidizes food for their American-born children, according to county officials and nonprofit managers that work with people living in poverty,” The Press Democrat reported on Tuesday.
More than 5,200 Sonoma County residents have left California’s CalFresh program since mid 2015, according to data from the county Department of Human Services.
“Local enrollment in the federally funded program, which provides monthly food benefits to legal residents of the United States with low incomes, peaked in June 2015 at 36,302 people and dropped over the next 20 months to 31,056 people by February, the most recent county data shows,” the media outlet reported.
“Certainly the information that we’re hearing from our partners … would lend oneself to believe that there are people who are either not following through in continuing their benefits, or they’re not coming in at all,” Kim Seamans, director of Sonoma County’s Economic Assistance Division, said.
Seamons said conomic expansion is partly behind the decline in food stamp recipients, but the local economy has added 3,200 jobs during the corresponding 20-month period while the number of unemployed job-seekers dropped by 2,000 people, according California’s Employment Development Department.
But Juan Torres, who manages the food access program at Catholic Charities, said Trump immigration policies also are playing a role.
Torres said since October, the Santa Rosa nonprofit has seen a 36 percent drop in the number of applications its clients have submitted for CalFresh benefits.
“(Clients) are afraid (that designation) would have an impact when they apply for citizenship, or try to sponsor a family member,” he said. “We started getting calls from clients checking in, (asking) how’s this going to change their situation. A lot of them were worried about being classified as a public charge,” Torres said.
But Seamans said that fear is not based on facts.
“The federal government does not access our data systems for immigration enforcement,” she said.
The Press Democrat included 42-year-old illegal alien women in Santa Rosa, Calif., in its reporting ,“who spoke on condition of anonymity because of deportation fears, still refuses to enroll her California-born children in CalFresh.”
“I don’t want to tell anyone that I’m here,” she said. “I don’t want them to think that I’m here, and that I’m taking advantage of the country. I work.”
“The undocumented Santa Rosa mother, who fled violence in Michoacán, Mexico 14 years ago for a new life in America, said CalFresh would certainly help her feed her children,” the Press Democrat reported. “But for her, the risk outweighs the benefits offered through the program.”