Politics
NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10:  Kethia Dorelus a social worker with the Cooperative Feeding Program displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food on February 10, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images) NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 10: Kethia Dorelus a social worker with the Cooperative Feeding Program displays a Federal food stamps card that is used to purchase food on February 10, 2011 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)  

Obama USDA met 30 times with Mexican gov’t to promote food-stamp use among Mexican immigrants

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

“I share the goal stated in your letter,” Vilsack concluded in his letter to the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, “which is to help people move toward gainful employment and financial independence. At the same time, the Nation’s nutrition assistance programs have never been needed more to help struggling families until they get back on their feet. I hope that this information clarifies our efforts and my views on these vital program.” (RELATED: USDA suggests food stamp parties, games to increase participation)

But statistics in Vilsack’s letter indicate that the number of legal non-citizens participating in SNAP increased approximately 190 percent from 2001 to 2010, from 425,000 to 1.23 million legal non-citizen participants. That number rose 77 percent since the program’s inception in 2004, when it served 693,000 non-citizen participants.

USDA did not offer data for 2011 and 2012, but a Republican Budget Committee staffer told TheDC that based on the growth rate, the number of legal non-citizens participating in the food stamp program today is about 1.63 million. That’s more than double the number of legal non-citizens who participated in 2008.

“Our nation is nearing a debt crisis and yet the Obama Administration has conducted thirty activities and meetings with the Mexican government to place even more foreign nationals on American welfare,” Sessions said. ”The number of non-citizens receiving food stamp support has doubled since the president took office. Such a policy defies rational thinking during a time of weak growth, high debt, and increasing welfare dependency. President Obama will have to defend this alarming partnership to the American people.”

Vilsack stressed that illegal immigrants are barred from participating in SNAP, and that states are required to determine whether applicants are legal citizens. He added that the USDA’s Food Nutrition Services supports the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) eligibility check program.

Food stamp participation reached an all time high this summer with 46.7 million people enrolled in the program overall. Spending on SNAP has doubled in the last four years and represents USDA’s single biggest annual expenditure, according to a Bloomberg report.

“Nearly 1 in 6 people living in the US are now on food stamps,” Sessions noted. “How can the administration justify trying to increase that number through outreach on the foreign soil of fifty consulates?”

He added that the continuation of the partnership demonstrates how far the country has moved from the guiding principles of the 1996 welfare reform and said there is a need for a renewed effort to return to that vision.

Participation in nutrition assistance programs like food stamps by non-citizens does not hinder their ability to qualify for citizenship or immigration status adjustments, according to current Department of Homeland Security immigration policy.

Follow Caroline on Twitter