WICHITA, Kansas – WIC helps pregnant women, mothers, and their young children, but it’s a federally funded program and some believe those services shouldn’t be available to illegal immigrants.
“Should the taxpayers be subsidizing illegal immigrants?” said Sedgwick County Commissioner Richard Ranzau. “If you come here illegally and looking for a job shouldn’t you be prepared to provide for yourself and your family?”
Last week, three commissioners agreed they’d like to explore the possibility of barring illegal immigrants from the program. So, Chairman Ranzau sent a letter to KDHE saying the Sedgwick County Commission would like KDHE to take any action to limit WIC program participation to United States citizens, nationals, and qualified aliens.
Commissioner Dave Unruh firmly disagrees with the idea.
“To restrict the WIC program for mothers and infants and their ability to get education, and to get food vouchers, and to get milk just doesn’t seem consistent with our responsibility as the Board of Health,” he said.
On Monday, he wrote a letter to KDHE pointing out the concern over illegal immigrant access was from a majority consensus at the commission meeting, not an official vote.
He goes on to say restricting the program wouldn’t reflect what Sedgwick County voters would want.
“I think he’s wrong, he’s out of touch with the average citizen,” Ranzau said of his fellow commissioner.
While Ranzau hopes to see the state spend taxpayer dollars on the taxpayer, Unruh says their duty as a health board goes beyond that.
“This is not a deal where we’re promoting illegal activity, we’re dealing with individuals who reside in our community and I think we need to respond to that,” Unruh said.
Ultimately, the decision lies with the Federal government.
KDHE was unavailable for an interview, but did say they’ve received both letters and will review them.
A change like this would take months to approve if it were considered, but commissioners say in the meantime they may try to require women to disclose their citizenship status when using the program, not to deny service, but in an effort to collect data.