CI Joins Amicus Brief in Supreme Court DACA Case

CI Joins Amicus Brief in Supreme Court DACA Case

Children’s Institute has joined health experts and advocates from across the country to fight Trump administration efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In an amicus brief filed last Friday, 36 organizations and leaders, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children have asked the court to consider that a reversal of DACA protections would cause developmental, psychological, and economic harm to at least 250,000 children in the U.S.

Oregon is home to one of the largest populations of DACA recipients in the country, with 9,910 DACA residents and 5,500 children of DACA recipients.

The brief states in part, “The imminent threat of losing DACA protection places children at risk of losing parental nurturance, as well as losing income, food security, housing, access to health care, educational opportunities, and the sense of safety and security that is the foundation of healthy child development.”

Oral arguments in the caseone of three DACA-related cases that the Supreme Court will review this fallare scheduled for November 12. All are challenges to the legality of attempts to end the DACA program.

The DACA program began in 2012, under President Barack Obama. DACA recipients, also known as Dreamers, are children of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as minors. DACA allows recipients to work in the U.S. and protects them from deportation in renewable two-year increments.

Research has shown that DACA has increased the wage and employment status of DACA-eligible immigrants, improved the mental health outcomes for DACA participants and their children, and reduced the numbers of households living in poverty.

Immigrant children in Oregon and elsewhere, raised under the threat of separation, detention, or deportation of their parents and family members, lack the safe and stable care environments that we know are critical to healthy development and learning.

Understanding that the hearts and minds of our children hold the greatest promise for our nation’s future demands that we protect DACA policies which keep families together, effectively and appropriately prioritizing the needs of our youngest.

– from the amicus brief, Children’s Institute


Read the full text of the amicus brief and the appendix here.



Tell Senator Merkley to Increase Funding for Child Care!

Tell Senator Merkley to Increase Funding for Child Care!

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) provides federal funding for states for child care subsidies for low-income families with children under 13. Before their August recess, the House voted to increase funding for CCDBG by $2.4 billion. The Senate has yet to decide whether to increase funding and by how much. 

Senator Merkley wants to hear from you! The Senator is interested in hearing from Oregonian’s about the high costs of child care and how they would benefit from increased subsidies. 

A Broader Definition of Public Charge Will Harm Millions of Families

A Broader Definition of Public Charge Will Harm Millions of Families

Dana Hepper is Children’s Institute’s director of policy and advocacy. Below is her public comment on behalf of CI in response to the Trump Administration’s changes to the public charge determination. 

Last year, the Trump Administration proposed changes to a federal rule known as “public charge” that would impact millions of working families across the country. Children’s Institute opposes this change as a racially motivated “wealth test” for immigrants and their families on the path to getting green cards.

Public charge is a determination used by immigration officials to refer to legal immigrants who are dependent on the government for financial support or likely to become so. Immigrants seeking legal permanent resident status who are deemed to be a public charge can be denied a green card. The Trump Administration proposal, which would define public charge much more widely than ever before, would force many immigrants to either forego essential supports like health care, food, and housing, or risk their immigration status.

In the last year, individuals and advocacy organizations across the country, including Children’s Institute, spoke out against changes to public charge. The proposal provoked a record 200,000 comments opposing the change. Despite this overwhelming opposition, the administration announced Monday that it is adopting this cruel and unnecessarily punitive rule change. The change will take effect October 15.

Enforcing a Law That Doesn’t Exist

According to the White House, the administration’s proposal simply seeks to enforce a law that has long been ignored.

“President Trump is enforcing this longstanding law to prevent aliens from depending on public benefit programs. The Immigration and Nationality Act makes clear that those seeking to come to the United States cannot be a public charge. For many years, this clear legal requirement went largely unenforced, imposing vast burdens on American taxpayers. Now, public charge law will finally be utilized.”

While the term “public charge” does appear in immigration laws, there is no “public charge law” that defines how an immigrant’s dependence on government support should be measured. The administration’s claim that it is attempting to enforce an existing law is false.

In the absence of any law defining what it means to be a public charge, INS officers historically interpreted the phrase themselves, applying inconsistent standards and requirements to green card applicants. In 1999, INS moved to clarify the guidelines, introducing a rule that defined a public charge as someone who receives most of their cash income from the government. The government further clarified that the use of Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or other non-cash programs would not be factors in public charge determinations.

This clarification was deemed necessary because confusion over these benefits “deterred eligible aliens and their families, including U.S. citizen children, from seeking important health and nutrition benefits that they are legally entitled to receive. This reluctance to access benefits has an adverse impact not just on the potential recipients, but on public health and the general welfare.”

Punishing Families for Seeking Services to Meet Basic Needs

The Trump Administration, it seems, wants to deter working immigrants from accessing—even for a short period of time—Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare Part D prescription drug support, or housing assistance. According to Elena Rivera, Children’s Institute’s Senior Health Policy & Program Advisor, “The new public charge rule will punish immigrants for seeking services to meet their family’s most basic needs of food, health care, and housing. Even worse, this rule is yet another tool being used to create an epidemic of fear and isolation across our communities, causing lasting harm to mental health and community well-being.”

This is not, as the administration claims, simple enforcement of a long-standing law. It is another weapon in a war on immigrant communities that will have a disastrous impact on those—including millions of children—who rely on these benefits.

If you or someone you know is currently applying for a green card, or will be in the future, learn more about your rights and how this rule change might affect you from Protecting Immigrant Families. The new rule is set to take effect on October 15, though legal challenges could delay this. Under current interpretations of the rule, green card applications that have already been submitted will not be subject to these rules, the use of non-cash benefits prior to October 15 will not impact future green card applications, and programs used by your U.S. Citizen children will not be used against you.

35,000 Families in Oregon Could Lose Food Stamps

35,000 Families in Oregon Could Lose Food Stamps

You may have heard that the Trump administration is seeking to change how states enroll people in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps. Learn more about the impact this will have on people—including children—across the country and here in Oregon, and find out what you can do to help.

The Administration’s Proposed Changes

Currently in more than 40 states, people who already receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are automatically enrolled in SNAP. The Trump administration wants to change this, limiting automatic enrollment into the program and disqualifying low-income families who have some assets such as a home or money in savings. The change would eliminate SNAP benefits for three million people nationwide.

According to The Washington Post:

“Current rules give states latitude to raise SNAP income eligibility limits so that low-income families with housing and child care costs that consume a sizable share of their income can continue to receive help affording adequate food. This option also allows states to adopt less restrictive asset tests so that families, seniors and people with a disability can have modest savings or own their own home without losing SNAP benefits.”

The Impact on Children

The New York Times reported this week that 500,000 children living in households that receive SNAP benefits would also lose automatic eligibility for free meals at school.

“Children in households with gross incomes between 185 percent and 200 percent of the poverty line would no longer be automatically eligible for any food assistance at school. And children in households with gross incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty line would be eligible for only reduced-price meals.”

Not surprisingly, research shows that hunger negatively impacts children’s academic achievement and behavior at school.

What Does It Mean for Families in Oregon?

Oregon’s Department of Human Services estimates 35,000 families in Oregon will lose access to SNAP benefits. According to OPB:

“If the rule is passed, it would immediately push anyone in Oregon earning between 130 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level—a range of about $33,500 to $47,600 for a family of four—off the assistance program.”

“This really hits home,” says Erin Helgren, Children’s Institute’s site liaison at our Early Works program in Yoncalla. “Nearly 35 percent of our Preschool Promise children will no longer qualify for SNAP benefits.” The Yoncalla School District is busy completing paperwork to receive a USDA Community Eligibility designation in order to ensure children in the district at least continue to receive free breakfast and lunch at school.

This really hits home. Nearly 35 percent of our Preschool Promise children will no longer qualify for SNAP benefits.

Erin Helgren

Early Works Site Liaison

You Can Help Stop These Changes

The Food and Nutrition Service Agency is accepting public comment on proposed changes to SNAP eligibility until September 23. Use the link below to submit your comment urging the government not to change SNAP benefit eligibility. Three million people—500,000 of whom are children—need us to speak up.

Tell Senator Merkley to Increase Funding for Child Care!

Our Response to Proposed Changes to How We Calculate Poverty

Dana Hepper is Children’s Institute’s director of policy and advocacy. Below is her public comment on behalf of CI in response to the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to how we calculate the federal poverty threshold.

The Children’s Institute is writing in opposition to the proposed changes to the way the Office of Management and Budget calculates the Official Poverty Measure (OPM). The Office of Management and Budget should continue to use the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U) as their inflation measure.

We are concerned that proposed changes would reduce the OPM over time. This would have an impact on millions of Americans who participate in publicly funded programs to make ends meet and improve the well-being of their families. Critical programs that support the healthy development of children include eligibility criteria related to the OPM. These programs include Head Start and Early Head Start, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Free and Reduced-Price School Meals, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for Women, Infants, and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If the inflation index for OPM changes to a number that rises more slowly than the current inflation factor, over time fewer and fewer families would have access to support families need to thrive.

Our experience is more families would benefit from access to publicly funded support, beyond those who are currently eligible under the existing OPM. The Office of Management and Budget should therefore consider changes to the way you calculate the OPM to increase the OPM and the number of families considered to be living in poverty. The cost of housing and child care has risen much faster than wages since the OPM measurement was created. A more accurate measure of poverty would factor in real costs for housing and child care.

Oregon has passed legislation this year to expand access to Free and Reduced-Price School Meals and with Women, Infants, and Children program. We are also increasing our investment in Head Start and Early Head Start. We have committed to expanding Medicaid to more children. And we are seeing the results of these investments for children and families, with more children receiving preventive well-child visits, more children enrolled in proven early childhood programs, and a plan to reduce child hunger. The federal government should be similarly exploring how to reach more families who need this support.


We Can’t Address Poverty by Changing the Definition of ‘Poor’

We Can’t Address Poverty by Changing the Definition of ‘Poor’

You may have read last month that the Trump administration has a plan to lower the poverty rate in America. The plan doesn’t do anything to help low-income families. Instead, the administration is seeking to change the way we calculate the “official poverty measure” (OPM). This change would impact millions of Americans, including children in low-income families who qualify for programs like Medicaid, CHIP, and Head Start, to name just a few.

How We Calculate Poverty Now, and How That Could Change

The Center for American Progress project “Talk Poverty” provides a detailed explanation of OPM:

The OPM was first created in the 1960s by Mollie Orshansky, an economist working for the Social Security Administration, who proposed poverty thresholds related to the cost of food: Any family earning less than three times the USDA estimate for the subsistence food budget is considered poor. Those thresholds have remained in place over the last half century, virtually unchanged other than by cost-of-living adjustments. Right now, according to the OPM, a family of three (with two adults and one child) counts as poor if their income amounts to less than $20,212 per year.

Currently, “Talk Poverty” goes on to explain, cost-of-living adjustments in the OPM are based on a measure of inflation called the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U). The Trump administration is looking to use a different measure of inflation—either the chained CPI or the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index (PCEPI)—to adjust poverty thresholds.

According to the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities:

Both measures rise more slowly than the current measure, the CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). As a result, either alternative measure would result in a lower poverty line, and the gap between the poverty line under the current versus either of the proposed methodologies would widen each year.

More Than Just a Technical Change

These proposed changes to how we define poverty in America aren’t just technical. The federal poverty threshold determines eligibility for many programs and benefits, including those that serve children living in low-income families. Lowering the poverty threshold over time, as the administration’s proposed change will do, means that each year, fewer and fewer kids will be eligible for these proven programs.

The Poverty Guidelines Are Already Too Low

According to the Center for American Progress, Americans on average are wrong about what it takes for a family of four to be classified as living in poverty.

Americans on average estimate that it takes just more than $30,000 in annual income for a family of four to be considered officially in poverty—about $7,000 more than the government’s poverty line of $23,550 for a household of four. Most respondents in the focus groups were shocked to hear that the official poverty line was as low as it is; many suggested that it represents a disconnect with the reality of rising prices over the past few years. Americans on average also report that it would take more than $55,000 in annual income to be considered out of poverty and safely in the middle class.

Current poverty guidelines also fail to take into account the rising costs of child care and housing. Far from easing the burden on low-income families across the country, the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the definition of poverty would only make things worse. 

You Can Help

The Office of Management and Budget is taking public comment on the proposed change to the poverty level. Use the button below to quickly and easily send an email to the office urging them not to make change our poverty calculations in a way that would harm kids and families.  

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