Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano are mum on why the legal requirements that immigrants and visa applicants not be reliant on government assistance have been watered down, according to some lawmakers.
The deadline for Clinton and Napolitano to respond to a letter regarding admission of immigrants on or likely to be on assistance programs from senior Republicans on the Budget, Judiciary, Finance, and Agriculture Committees came and passed Monday.
On Tuesday Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee, blasted the pair for their failure to comply.
“It is unacceptable that Secretary Napolitano and Secretary Clinton have not seen fit to respond our oversight letter,” Sessions said in a statement. “It is a sound principle of immigration law that those who come to our country should be able to take care of themselves financially, yet this legal requirement has effectively been waived. Under their agencies’ guidelines, an able-bodied, working-age immigrant could receive the bulk of his or her income in the form of federal assistance and still not be deemed welfare-reliant.”
The concerns that Sessions, Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley, Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch, and Agriculture Committee ranking member Pat Roberts have is the government’s interpretation of federal regulations prohibiting legal admittance of immigrants “likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence.”
As the senators detailed in their letter sent on Aug. 6, immigrants can avail themselves of dozens of welfare programs at the time of their application and after without the government deeming them a dependency risk, or so-called “public charge.”
Food stamps benefits, housing benefits, energy assistance, child care services and many other programs are all inadmissible when determining an immigrant’s risk of public dependency, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s website.
“[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 in their letter. “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.”
In their initial request, the senators hoped to uncover the justification behind disqualifying a slew of welfare programs from consideration of an immigrant’s public charge risk, the number of visa applicants and applicants for admission denied because of that risk, the number of visa applicants and applicants for admission granted admission despite a dependency risk, the number of immigrants admitted that later became dependent on the government for subsistence (all between 2001-2011), and if the information is unavailable, an explanation as to why it is not tracked.
“More than 100 million people in the U.S., including foreign nationals, are currently receiving some form of federal welfare,” Sessions added. “Yet despite these historic figures, the Administration is aggressively trying to boost the welfare rolls among non-citizens. USDA has even entered into a partnership with the Mexican government to expand enrollment in food stamps and the fourteen other welfare programs administered by that agency. Actions like this threaten the core premise of American immigration.”
According to the senator, there is no reason why these answers are not forthcoming.
“Our reasonable request for information should be easily met,” he added. “The American people have a right to know and I intend to pursue the matter vigorously.”
A State Department spokesman told The Daily Caller they are working on the request.
“We can confirm that we have received the letter and are diligently working to provide a response as soon as possible,” the spokesman told TheDC.
DHS did not immediately responded to TheDC’s request for comment.