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Newsom proposes expanding food assistance benefits to older undocumented Californians

Apples and other fruit are stacked in the produce section of a grocery store.

Undocumented immigrants don’t currently qualify for the state’s food assistance programs, but Governor Gavin Newsom has proposed expanding these benefits to undocumented people age 55 and older.

Newsom proposed spending about $35 million to expand CalFresh eligibility as part of his draft budget released Monday.

State Senator Melissa Hurtado represents California’s 14th district. Last year, she introduced “Food For All,” a bill that would expand food assistance benefits to low-income undocumented residents, as well as those those under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or Temporary Protected Status.

Hurtado says she applauds Newsom's effort to include these benefits for older undocumented people in his proposed budget.

“This is the first major step towards making food access in California equitable, and ending the exclusion of income-eligible for undocumented immigrants is beyond needed,” she said at a press conference Thursday.

Hurtado said this benefit would be critical in the San Joaquin Valley, where many farmworkers suffer from food insecurity.

Herling Isela Garcia lives in Lindsey and is a mother of three. She said money has been tight after she injured herself working in the fields, making her husband the sole provider for their family.

“It hurts to have to tell my daughters that they don’t have enough to eat some days,” she said in Spanish.

Hurtado said she will continue to push so that all low-income undocumented residents can get food assistance.

Madi Bolanos covered immigration and underserved communities for KVPR from 2020-2022. Before joining the station, she interned for POLITCO in Washington D.C. where she reported on US trade and agriculture as well as indigenous women’s issues during the Canadian election. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology from San Francisco State University. Madi spent a semester studying at the Danish Media and Journalism School where she covered EU policies in Brussels and alleged police brutality at the Croatian-Serbian border.