During the past years California has seen a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment through the recent proposal of different propositions and policies.
The implications of such measures like Prop. 227, which was opposed to Bilingual Education in the schools, leads those affected communities to feel as though there is no value of their language, their culture, or even their presence in California.
One recent form by which the state and the country has assisted in telling the immigrant population that they are not valuable enough to receive state and federal support is through the proposed changes in the welfare and immigration laws.
There has been welfare and immigration reform in the recent years and these changes serve as a means of telling our population that we should not reproduce physically nor culturally since we will not receive any support for doing so, especially if the individual doing so is an undocumented mother. By revising current policies and proposing new ones that are targeted towards the Chicano/Latino community we are reminded of how discrimination continues to view us as the cause of their problems.

Welfare and Immigration Reform: Is the Denial of Services Justified?

The misconception is that immigrants are all on welfare or are living off of hard working, tax-paying citizens by reaping the benefits of their earned tax dollars. Yet, undocumented people who work in the fields or are involved in the informal labor market, for example also pay taxes through all the taxed materials they buy in this country such as food or clothing. 
For example, in the book entitled Transformations by Carola and Marcello Suarez-Orozco, they looked at Los Angeles county and the economic impact of immigrants on the county. In their findings, they documented that "new arrivals cost the county approximately $946, 705,000" in different services such as education and social services. In contrast, the amount that these new arrivals contributed to Los Angeles county was $4.3 billion dollars, which is $.85 billion dollars in taxes that immigrants contributed to the county. Issues such as this should be recognized while our country decides to deny them basic rights such as the right to receive health care.

    Some of the implications of current welfare and immigration reform for the immigrant communities:

    It is important to recognize that many immigrants had already been ineligible for different social services, but the group of immigrants which will be affected the most due to these changes seems to be permanent residents. As far as the currently proposed changes, there is the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) which was enacted on August 22, 1996. There is also the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 which was initiated on September 30, 1996. Both assisted in restricting the type of benefits which immigrants from different categories are eligible for.

    The enactment of these changes has furthered the process of creating divisions and distinctions between U.S. citizens, legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants. Everyone who is eligible for public assistance has a lifetime limit of 5 years during which they can be on some form of welfare program. For those qualified aliens who have arrived on or after August 22, 1996, there is a 5 year period that must pass before they can attempt to receive any assistance.

    For additional information on how the issues of immigration and welfare reform affect the Chicano/Latino community, take a look at the site by the National Council of La Raza. The brief changes mentioned here are only some of the issues which will greatly affect the members of communities who need financial support.

Summary of Some Changes

    The following are some of the changes that people who are on public assistance will be confronting in the near future if not already. There are a variety of changes that affect different categories of people. So the information can get a bit confusing unless you know who the target group is that is mostly affected by the changes. There are two main categories that are dealt with under the issue of welfare and different people make up the subgroups that define these two main categories. The first category of people are those who are considered "qualified aliens". This category includes people who are legal permanent residents, refugees, asylees, people who have had their deportation withheld, and parents of battered children to name a few. All other immigration categories are considered "not qualified aliens", which is the second category designated for immigrants.
For additional information on how immigrants will be affected by these changes and how some of them will be enforced you can look at some facts offered by Immigration and Naturalization Services.

    Permanent residents should still receive benefits such as Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is the program that is replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Yet states have been given the ability to make the decisions over who can and cannot receive certain benefits. For example, the state would be able to decide whether or not to make women eligible for Women Infants and Children (WIC), which is supposed to provide nutrition to women and children who are eligible. States also have the ability to make a state law that would allow for undocumented people to be eligible for some benefits, but this has not been done anywhere as of yet.


Implications for the Raza Population

    Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most all public benefits provided through state and federal funding except for emergency care and health care such as immunizations and disease testing. Although pregnant women are supposed to receive prenatal care there are initiatives in California wanting to deny both legal and illegal immigrant women prenatal care and benefits.

    Although there is not  much information regarding this program it seems that there is currently a program in effect called Healthy Families that provides health insurance to lower income families with a certain number of children. Although I did not find specific information regarding this program, it seems that it is in effect due to a grant of money allocated specifically for this purpose. The government must allocate this money to families by some time next summer to show that there is a need to have this program in effect. So if there are people that you know within the Raza community that require some form of health assistance, let them know to inquire at their local health facilities about this program so that they can get more details about eligibility.