“The reason behind that is those types of services — those types of social services — are things that people many times, through issues that are beyond their control, are forced, kind of, into that type of program, whether it be unemployment or anything of that nature. So, no that is not a grounds [for deportation],” he said.
In a 2011 report based on U.S. Census data, the Center for Immigration Studies — a self-described low-immigration, pro-immigrant research group — found that in 2009, 57 percent of households with children under 18 headed by a legal or illegal immigrant were receiving payments from at least one welfare program, compared to just 32 percent of native U.S. households with children.
In their letter Monday to Napolitano and Clinton, Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley seek answers about why the federal government does not consider immigrants’ participation in a vast range of additional welfare programs a dependency risk.
“[U]nder your interpretation, an able-bodied immigrant of working age could receive the bulk of his or her income in the form of federal welfare and still not be deemed a ‘public charge,’” the senators wrote.
They placed specific emphasis on a nutrition assistance partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Mexican government, first reported by The Daily Caller last month, as a cause for concern.
At least one of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program brochures — containing advocacy messaging disseminated to Mexican consulates to distribute to Mexican nationals, migrant communities, and Mexican Americans — assures immigrants that their enrollment in that program will not be considered when their applications for visas or immigration status adjustments.
“[G]uidance from your agencies specifically prevents consular and DHS officials from considering the likelihood that an alien will receive SNAP benefits, WIC payments, Medicaid, child-care benefits, foster care, Energy assistance, educational assistance, other medical and health benefits, and assistance from at least fifteen different nutritional welfare programs,” the senators wrote.
“This interpretation of the law, along with the actions of the USDA to recruit new immigrants to sign up for SNAP benefits, undermines both congressional intent and sound immigration policy,” they write.
In an interview with TheDC, an outraged Sen. Sessions did not mince words about the resident immigrants who have become public charges.
“We would like to know how many [there are], how big the problem is, how much it is costing the United States Treasury — because this is clearly a burden on the Treasury,” Sessions said.
“Now, during the debate on immigration, the constant theme has been that people entering the country are just trying to work and they are not drawing on the United States Treasury and the facts seem to indicate otherwise.”