Background and objectives: Studies supporta recent decline in public benefit enrollment among immigrant families. We aimed to describe health and resource use, barriers to use, and immigration-related fear in families with undocumented parents compared with families without undocumented parents. We also aimed to assess associations with discontinuation of public benefits and fear of deportation.
Methods: We assessed immigration concerns and enrollment in Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) with an 89-item anonymous, cross-sectional survey of English- and Spanish-speaking caregivers of hospitalized children. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess associations with discontinuation of public benefits and fear of deportation.
Results: Of 527 families approached, 399 enrolled (105 with 1 or more undocumented parent, 275 with no undocumented parent, and 19 with undisclosed immigration status). Compared with families without undocumented parents, families with undocumented parents had higher levels of poverty and food insecurity. Controlling for perceived eligibility, public benefit use was similar across groups. Of families with undocumented parents, 29% reported public benefit discontinuation because of immigration concerns, and 71% reported fear of deportation. Having an undocumented parent was associated with public benefit disenrollment (odds ratio: 46.7; 95% confidence interval: 5.9-370.4) and fear of deportation (odds ratio: 24.3; 95% confidence interval: 9.6-61.9).
Conclusions: Although families with undocumented parents had higher levels of poverty and food insecurity compared with families without undocumented parents, public benefit use was similar between groups. Immigration-related fear may be a barrier to public benefit use in this population.
Copyright © 2021 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.