The first 100 days of Trump’s administration have been an unending assault on democracy and our communities: from stacking his cabinet with people committed to dismantling the very agencies they lead, to travel bans and deportations. Among these attacks, Trump has outlined a budget that was nothing short of a declaration of war on our families. When I think about what lies ahead, I worry most about the health and safety of our families.
I’ve experienced the impact of drastic cuts to social services before. They are disastrous for low-income families. During the Bush era, I was a young parent in New Mexico receiving child care assistance. Every month I had to bring in documentation to maintain my certification. One month, the staff person came back and said I had made $150 over the annual limit, and I no longer qualified for assistance. I panicked. I was working, and had two kids in elementary school. I cried. Then she started crying, too. She let me know that federal poverty guidelines had changed, and she had no choice but to follow them. She was devastated to share this information with parents all day.
Yet we New Mexicans are nothing if not resilient. My child care providers bent the rules to make sure my youngest child was taken care of — putting themselves as risk. My oldest child had to be on his own for more hours during the day, opening my family up to scrutiny from Child Protective Services. Everyone was at risk for that $150.
Trump has now completed his first 100 days, and countless budget fights are brewing in Congress. The safety and well-being of our families requires us to learn how to understand the federal budget from our hearts. The federal budget is a financial expression of our values. Every dollar we spend, every choice we make in cutting budgets or expanding investments, is about our country’s priorities and vision for what is important. And our top priority should be the well-being of families.
I am angered by proposed cuts to the Department of Health and Human Services. Cuts to human services mean our parents have less access to food for their babies through the Women, Infants and Children program. It also means cuts to behavioral health programs. I work extensively in a rural area of New Mexico. We see people die all the time who fall asleep in the elements or on the railroad tracks because there are not enough services to address homelessness or addiction. We face a shortage of health providers and don’t have enough hospitals. Behavioral health services and Medicaid funding are about basic security — getting people out of the cold and under a warm blanket. They’re about keeping people safe and healthy, and connecting them with supportive communities.
When our families don’t have the food we need, when we are scraping by, we have to fight to survive. Families are forced to make desperate and dangerous decisions, like leaving our children unattended, ignoring our health or finding unauthorized ways to secure resources. Trump’s proposed cuts to vital agencies are sure to lead to an increase in criminalized activity like homelessness, addiction or unattended children, and that in turn leads to more violence.
Albuquerque has the highest rate of police violence in the country, partly because our state has used police officers where social workers and social programs would be more effective. We began to hold the Albuquerque Police Department accountable for the violence they have inflicted on our communities under the Obama administration. The Department of Justice is now signaling they will no longer prioritize police reform, and I am terrified for what that means for New Mexicans and other Black, Latino and Indigenous families across the country.
Well-being for families also means ensuring they can live in healthy environments. My home state of New Mexico is one of the poorest states in the nation, yet our families are resilient people. We have a deep connection to land and spirit, so I was horrified by Trump’s proposed massive cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The health of our land, air and water parallels the health of our families. I used to live in Albuquerque’s South Valley where there are 52 Superfund cleanup sites. My daughter’s asthma only started to clear when we moved, however. We now live by jet fuel leak at an Air Force base that has gone unchecked for more than 20 years. Trucks come from all over the country to dump the waste in our backyards. With cuts to the EPA, it’s going to get even worse.
Nothing during Trump’s first 100 days provides a foundation for families to get ahead: not jobs, clean environments, community-led policing or public assistance. Instead, we are left with the largest Robin Hood-in-reverse proposal from any president in modern US history, shifting substantial amounts of money from low-income people to those who already possess enormous wealth. Our families — our children — deserve better than this. US families are struggling and need a budget, a president and a government that will invest in our ability to thrive.