The 1996 welfare reform, also known as the Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), was enacted to increase the efficiency of the welfare system but its discriminatory nature has resulted in economic hardship, lack of funds to receive food, and poorer health among new immigrants to the United States.
One of the main provisions of the PRWORA was that it repealed Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and replaced it with Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF).Before the enactment of TANF and the appeal of the AFDC, legal immigrants were eligible for the assistance under the same guidelines as citizens. This changed after the welfare reform; the PRWORA and TANF made it more difficult for immigrants to receive any form of social assistance by disallowing them to apply until they have been in the United States for 5 years. This was done to increase the effectiveness of welfare programs and prevent welfare dependency which was at its highest peak when the PRWORA was passed. While this regulation may seem just to some, it has led to economic hardships among immigrants.
PRWORA prevents immigrants from participating in welfare-to-work programs, such as CalWORKs, which helps unemployed adults obtain jobs by offering vocational training and adult education. When immigrants enter the United States, they often lack an extensive work history and a good education. Therefore, they tend to have low wage jobs, making them sensitive to the economy as the low earning jobs are the first affected by a receding or booming economy (Kalil and Ziol-Guest 13). Hence, new immigrants to the United States could largely benefit from CalWorks because they would be provided training which would allow them to seek jobs with a higher payroll. But, as stated previously, PRWORA restricts immigrants’ access to this program which in turn forces immigrants to keep their low salary jobs as their only means for survival. Consequently, this leads them to facing economic hardships during difficult times due to their limited income.
Since Ronald Regan’s presidency, funding for welfare programs has been cut significantly due to the government’s and public’s desire to reduce dependency on the federal government. According to Sharon Parrott, former Director of the Welfare Reform and Income Support Division, and Arloc Sherman, Senior Researcher at the Center Budget and Policy Priorities, in their article “TANF’s Results are More Mixed than is Often Understood”, The Food Stamp Program experienced $28 dollars in cuts (3). Also, the block grant given to states through TANF has not been adjusted to today’s economy. Therefore, it has lost 22% of its value due to inflation (Parrot and Sherman 7). This means that the money immigrants do receive is worth less than before due to the declining economy. Combined with the typical lower earnings of immigrants, this has led to the prevalence of a condition known as food insecurity where one’s access to food is...