In Defense of WIC: Guidance for Navigating Uncertainty around WIC and Immigration
February 9, 2017
The National WIC Association (NWA) has received comments and stories from across the country expressing anxiety about recent immigration pronouncements from the White House.
First, despite the uncertainty, it is important to keep in mind that WIC policy has not changed. Our doors remain open to all vulnerable mothers and young children who meet WIC income guidelines and who are at nutrition risk.
NWA will continue to closely monitor federal policy and keep our members updated about any changes. At this point, there are a lot of rumors and speculation about what changes may be coming. In the absence of certainty, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions that our members have asked over the past few weeks, as well as several resources to help you respond to questions from the families you serve. As always, check in with your state WIC Director to be certain that anything you are sharing comports with your state’s WIC policies.
- What should frontline WIC staff be telling participants and potential participants if/when they express fear about enrolling in WIC due to their citizenship status?
Policy hasn’t changed. WIC continues providing the same services with the same eligibility criteria. Still, fear is an understandable response to current events. Meet participants with compassion and help them understand what your agency does with their information.
- Does WIC keep participant information in a database?
WIC agencies collect and retain necessary information about participants. This is essential to provide ongoing services. This is done to avoid collecting the same information repeatedly. WIC agencies maintain secure systems. WIC agencies do not share participant information. There are strong existing federal laws that keep personal information provided to WIC private, confidential, and used strictly for eligibility purposes.
- Does WIC share participant information with other government agencies?
WIC agencies maintain and retain records at the state level. Identifying information is not currently shared with other agencies or organizations.
- Can WIC provide something in writing to participants assuring them that their information will not be given to other government agencies?
Contact your state WIC office to enquire if your state WIC agency is able to provide written guidance to local agencies about how best to communicate privacy/confidentiality policies and practices.
- If a participant is currently enrolled in Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), should they re-apply?
The National Immigration Law Center advises, “If you already have DACA and are considering whether to apply to renew it, immigration authorities already have the information on your original application, so there is less risk in submitting the renewal application than in submitting a first-time application. Because we don’t know what might happen to DACA under the Trump administration, we recommend that you consult with an immigration attorney or a Board of Immigration Appeals–accredited representative before submitting a renewal application.”
- If a participant is not currently enrolled in DACA or DAPA, should they apply for the first time?
The National Immigration Law Center recommends consulting with an immigration attorney to determine if this is the right decision.
- Should I respond to media requests about this issue? If so, how should I respond?
If you are contacted by 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. Instead, take the opportunity to tell WIC’s story. 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.
- Will NWA be collecting input from members to share with USDA about how policy changes related to WIC and immigration status will impact administration of WIC programs across the country?
Yes. NWA welcomes the opportunity to hear from our members. We are especially interested in hearing how WIC families may be feeling or coping with any immigration concerns about WIC participation. Please share experiences of WIC families here.
Other comments related to legislation and policy can be directed to Elisabet Eppes. If you have comments about other NWA related activities, please consult our staff list to determine the best person to connect with.
- If I am already seeing the impacts on my WIC agency and/or clinics of the new political environment, to whom can I report these impacts and how?
Please share them with your state WIC office and fill out this survey to share with NWA your experiences and those of WIC families.
- If there are policy changes, how will NWA respond? How should state and local WIC agencies respond?
NWA is unable to speculate about future developments. If policy changes, NWA will provide guidance to our members about what the changes are, how they will impact WIC families, and talking points for staff, participants and the media.
NWA’s top priority remains protecting WIC for all the vulnerable mothers and young children WIC serves.