The federal government made an unprecedented investment in children in 2021, which is estimated to have cut child poverty by more than half relative to 2018. However, that relief was not shared equitably. Millions of children were left out because their eligibility for pandemic relief and other safety net programs is tied to their immigration status and that of their parents. In an article published in Academic Pediatrics in partnership with UnidosUS, we explored how certain exclusions deny full access to the safety net to not only undocumented children, but also U.S. citizen children in immigrant and mixed-status families—and how Hispanic children have been particularly impacted by these circumstances.
Our year-end brief describes a complex set of factors that work together to exclude these children, from policies that explicitly bar undocumented or recent immigrants; to policies with stricter income eligibility limits for immigrant families; to a heightened anti-immigrant climate that dissuades even eligible families from accessing programs. We also offer eight policy recommendations to reduce child poverty equitably moving forward: from making the child tax credit permanently refundable and available to all children, regardless of income or immigration status; to eliminating discriminatory waiting periods and public charge rules; to providing thoughtful and robust outreach about programs to qualified families. With these changes, a future federal investment in children can further reduce the overall child poverty rate and ensure that these reductions are achieved equitably.