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Fear of Deportation Leaves Many Colorado Kids Hungry

Deportation concerns are driving many Colorado families to non-government food pantries for assistance, and to churches, where many feel safe. (Getty Images)
Deportation concerns are driving many Colorado families to non-government food pantries for assistance, and to churches, where many feel safe. (Getty Images)
May 18, 2017

DENVER -- Children born in this country are U.S. citizens, regardless of their parents' immigration status, and many are eligible for health insurance coverage and food stamps.

But the Trump Administration's tough talk on immigration and an uptick in ICE activity in so-called sanctuary cities, are keeping some families from accessing those programs. Javier Roacho, who works with Hunger Free Colorado's food resource hotline, said the current political climate is affecting families across the state.

"People are afraid of applying; people want to opt out of the Medicaid and food stamp program, due to fear that they're going to be targeted by the government," Roacho said. "Children are missing out on food and we're going have kids going to bed hungry, going to school hungry. "

He said undocumented immigrants, who aren't eligible for assistance programs, are concerned that they could face deportation if they get benefits for their eligible children. Roacho said fear is largely spread by word-of-mouth, and more outreach is needed to encourage parents to get kids the help they need.

According to the National Immigration Law Center, so far no laws have been changed that would put parents at risk.

In 2015, nearly one-in-10 food stamp recipients were U.S. citizen children living with non-citizens. Roacho said with schools closing for summer break, many kids will lose access to meals and the school nurse.

"Our public schools can only do so much, so the rest is up to us,” he said, "to get our children what they need - make sure if something happens to them that we can take them into the ER or to the hospital without hesitation, or without thinking about what's going to happen."

Roacho said deportation concerns are driving families to non-government food pantries for assistance, as well as to churches, where many feel safe. He added that Colorado's economy also could take a hit if money that could be spent at local grocery stores isn't accessed and has to be returned to the federal government.

Families can connect with benefits and other resources by calling the Hunger Free Colorado hotline at 855-855-4626.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO