National WIC Association

Draft Executive Order Potentially Impacting WIC

February 3, 2017

Many of you have likely seen or are aware of media reports that the White House may issue an Executive Order relating to public charge rules for immigrants, both legal and undocumented, who use federal public benefits.

A leaked draft of the Order—as yet unsigned—holds immigrants subject to a public charge test and their sponsors liable for repaying the federal government for the cost of benefits received. It would deny admission to the US to any immigrant “likely to become a public charge,” and calls for the removal or deportation of an immigrant who “has become a public charge.”

A public charge is a person likely to be dependent on government for their survival. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) defines public charge as one who is likely to become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” USCIS currently excludes a number of programs from public charge consideration, including WIC. According to the National Immigration Law Center, a person’s likelihood of becoming a public charge is based upon an evaluation of the ‘facts and circumstances’ relevant to their ability to support themselves.

While the draft broadens the definition of public charge to encompass public benefits “for which eligibility or amount is determined in any way on the basis of income, resources, or financial need,” if and until the Executive Order is signed, we are unable to know with any degree of certainty if WIC will be affected. Even then there may be no clarity until rules are promulgated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and relevant federal agencies.

Regardless of whether or not this draft Order or another version sees the light of day, the chilling effects of last Friday’s Executive Order impacting refugees and travelers from seven majority Muslim nations, and the troubling rhetoric of the campaign and post-election have contributed to an immigrant-hostile environment. Together, they have created an unprecedented level of fear among our nation’s immigrant neighbors.

We offer these four actions:

  1. NWA wants to hear from you as you learn of or experience the effects of this environment on individual clients or overall caseload. Please collect stories, and where possible data, and share them with NWA using this survey. We are not interested in names, but expressions of fear, uncharacteristic numbers of cancelled appointments or no-shows, unusual or unanticipated caseload declines for specific ethnic or cultural groups, or other information you feel of relevance and critical for us to learn.
  2. Until an Order is signed, continue to represent that nothing has changed and that WIC is open for business to all who meet WIC’s eligibility criteria.
  3. In the event you are contacted the media, it would be important to advise that until an Executive Order is signed, commenting about the draft or its consequences would be speculation at best. Our goal is to avoid further fueling an already fearful environment.
  4. Please do share with the media that participation in WIC assures healthy birth outcomes, reduces infant mortality, low and very-low infant birthweight, health care costs, improves nutrition and health, and prepares young children to learn when they are school-age ready.

Finally, remember that NWA has your back and we will do all that we can to protect WIC for all of the vulnerable mothers and young children WIC serves. Keep doing the good WIC work that you do.