National WIC Association

Making Sure WIC’s Doors Stay Open to All Eligible Moms and Young Children

May 12, 2017

Many of you received NWA’s Association Update on Tuesday afternoon with a link to the Guardian article, Undocumented immigrants avoid vital nutrition services for fear of deportation. In the Update, NWA described the article, provided a link to our survey asking about the effects of the current political climate on caseload, and included links to our previous blog posts on the issue of WIC and immigration.

NWA has received numerous responses to the survey, the vast majority of them appreciative of our leadership on this issue and grateful for the opportunity to share stories about how recent political actions and rhetoric have affected WIC staff and participants. We have also received a handful of critical responses.

We appreciate all of the feedback we have received. We would also like clarify a few things and provide some additional context about the Guardian piece as well as our survey.

NWA has been working on the issue of WIC and immigration from a variety of angles for better than two decades, and particularly over the last several months. We have sent emails and posted on our blog information and guidance for WIC staff including advising local agency and clinic staff to assure participants that nothing has changed as far as WIC requirements are concerned. Our board of directors, several committees, and our government affairs team have been strategizing and working hard to protect WIC and all of WIC’s participants. We have been doing much of this work quietly and behind-the-scenes with national and local immigration groups, local and state WIC agencies, and other key stakeholders.

We been conducting the survey since February about the effects of the current political climate on caseload; we have received responses from across the country.

Some NWA members have asked why we are conducting this survey in the first place. The reasons are simple: 1) it is crucial for us to document the harm caused by the Administration’s pronouncements and actions regarding immigrants; 2) we hope to be able to demonstrate that these pronouncements and actions cause real harm; and 3) offer strong arguments to oppose the draft Executive Order or any legislative actions that could arise in the 115th Congress.

At the same time, you may also be aware that the Vice President, then Governor of Indiana, executed regulations as Governor, despite oppositional efforts by NWA, local WIC advocates, and FNS, that require immigrant and citizenship status verification to obtain WIC services in Indiana. This presents a serious threat to WIC and especially vulnerable WIC moms and young children, given his current role.

NWA was approached by the journalist from The Guardian to learn more about immigration and WIC. The reality on the ground – that caseloads have rapidly declined where immigrant populations seem significant (an apparent result of the rhetoric of the federal election campaign, the recent immigrant related actions of the President, the redirecting of ICE resources to arrest and deport, and the release of the draft executive order threatening public charge) – meant that we could no longer ignore the crisis impacting immigrant WIC families. Whether or not WIC remains open for business, the reality is that immigrant families are afraid to access WIC services.

The Guardian article fairly reports the current situation many WIC families and clinics are facing. We have heard countless stories from across the country from you and your colleagues of WIC families’ fear and anxiety related to accessing WIC services. Immigrant families are opting out of WIC. While it is true nothing has changed with respect to WIC eligibility, fear and anxiety have increased dramatically with very real and dangerous consequences for the families WIC serves.

NWA has been and continues to be a non-partisan organization. Our mission is to inspire and empower the WIC community to advocate for and promote quality WIC services for all eligible mothers and young children. When that mission comes under attack, NWA makes every effort to advocate for and protect WIC families.

Rest assured that we do all that we can to promote WIC’s open doors to assure healthy pregnancies, healthy birth outcomes, and healthy, thriving young children.