The fear among immigrant families that accessing social services could trigger unwanted attention to a family member's legal status didn't start with the Trump administration. But the new president's policies and rhetoric could be making the problem much worse, according to social scientists and experts working in the field.

Service providers have seen a decline in enrollment in anti-poverty and food assistance programs among legally eligible immigrant families, according to The Atlantic's Annie Lowrey. And one explanation kept coming up over and over again: fear of deportation.

Here's just one example of the drop (emphasis mine):

Eisner Health, a Los Angeles-based health-care provider with a low-income Latino client base, said it has seen a 20 percent drop in food-stamp enrollments, a 54 percent drop in Medicaid enrollments among children, and a 82 percent drop in enrollments in a local health program that serves indigent adults, including the undocumented. Re-enrollments across all programs had declined 40 percent, as well. (The group compared monthly enrollment averages from December through February with data from 2016.) ‚ÄúI wouldn‚Äôt have predicted at all that we would have been hit so hard,‚ÄĚ said Dr. Deborah Lerner, Eisner‚Äôs chief medical officer. ‚ÄúI was shocked.‚ÄĚ

Programs in New Jersey, Georgia, and Maryland have also reported a decrease in services accessed by their immigrant clients. Of the 20 organizations working with documented and undocumented immigrants that Lowrey interviewed, 17 reported seeing more legally eligible families decline to enroll in programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and free school lunches.


‚ÄúThe administration says that it‚Äôs going to go after the ‚Äėbad dudes,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Clarissa Mart√≠nez-de-Castro of the National Council of La Raza, the civil-rights organization, told Lowrey. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre seeing all these cases of people‚ÄĒchildren, documented immigrants, Hispanic and Latino citizens‚ÄĒwho are not ‚Äėbad dudes‚Äô caught in this dragnet. That‚Äôs adding to the climate of confusion and fear. This is not accidental.‚ÄĚ