Plus, disinvesting in families—particularly families with young children—might save the government a few safety-net dollars, but at the cost of hurting those families’ health and long-run earning potential. “The proposal at its core says that work and family don’t matter; wealth and income are what matters,” said Olivia Golden, the executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, in a call with reporters. “It targets documented working parents playing by the rules, who are looking to health, nutrition, and housing supports for their families and we know from decades of research that children's well-being—their health, their economic security, their schooling and learning—depends on their parents and on their family’s stability of income, housing, and nutrition security.”
Indeed, the policy would likely discourage pregnant women from seeking prenatal care. It will spook families with young kids away from health programs that would provide them with immunizations. It would discourage families from getting help to ensure their kids eat enough high-quality food. It would increase poverty rates among families with non-native members. The result? More missed days of school, fewer kids making it through high school, lower college-graduation rates, depressed lifetime earnings, more emergency-room visits, more heart disease, more deprivation.
It would also, of course, result in more poverty now. Yesenia Chavez of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health describes the proposal as “life-threatening,” something that would make it “impossible for people of color and immigrants to be in this country and live with dignity.” She added in a statement: “Federal assistance programs like Medicaid or [food stamps] are critical for immigrant families, and a change in policy would force immigrant families of all immigration status to forgo access to their basic needs, like health care, food, and housing, in order to keep their families together.”
The math is off, as well as cruel. In some way, the government itself admits it. “DHS has determined that the proposed rule may decrease disposable income and increase the poverty of certain families and children, including U.S. citizen children,” the draft rule reads. “For the reasons stated elsewhere in this preamble, however, DHS has determined that the benefits of the action justify the financial impact on the family.” Only in some blinkered, zero-sum sense. Depriving immigrant families of health care, healthy food, insurance, and antipoverty supports does not just hurt them. In the long term, it hurts everyone.