US importing welfare cases? Just .068 percent of visa applications denied due to dependency risk in FY 2011

Caroline May | Reporter

The Department of Homeland Security missed their second deadline to explain the apparent dilution of immigration law barring those seeking entry to the United States from becoming “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence,” or a so-called public charge, to four GOP senators on Monday.

The ranking Republicans on the Senate Finance, Agriculture, Budget, and Judiciary Committees have been pushing DHS and the Department of State since early August for an explanation as to why reliance on only two of the nearly 80 federal welfare programs in America (Supplemental Social Security Income and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) constitute a dependency risk and make an applicant unqualified for entry on public charge grounds.

An applicant’s participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or food stamps, housing benefits, energy assistance, child care services, Medicaid and a slew of other programs are all inadmissible, according to current immigration policy, when considering an individual’s application for citizenship, visa or a status adjustment.

While an explanation of the policy and accompanying data has not been forthcoming from the federal government, Department of State data analyzed by the staff of Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, reveals a shockingly low percentage of applications (immigrant and non-immigrant — or those applying for a temporary pass) denied visas on public charge grounds for fiscal year 2011 and in years prior.

In FY 2011, out of more than 10.37 million (immigrant and non-immigrant) applications processed by the State Department, just 7,069 applications were found to be ineligible on the basis of the applicant becoming a public charge, or .068 percent, according to the analysis.

Further, the net percentage of all visa applications denied on public charge grounds, subtracting those who were able to overcome the finding for fiscal year 2011 (as applicants can reapply), was just .003 percent. Thus, for those applications deemed to be inadmissible on the already finite definition of becoming dependent on the American government, nearly as many were able to overcome the finding.

The total number of applications denied on all refusal grounds — from terrorist activity to misrepresentation to criminal activity and the like — was 2.39 million, or 23.05 percent.

“Federal immigration law establishes those seeking entrance into the United States cannot be welfare-reliant,” Sessions reacted to the data to TheDC. “The initial assessment of State Department data suggests that the law is being ignored. In fact, we know that federal authorities are even encouraging welfare use among foreign nationals.”

The revelation follows a recent study of census data by the Center for Immigration Studies, which found that in 2010, 36 percent of immigrant-headed households were on at least one major welfare program — largely nutrition assistance and Medicaid (both considered inadmissible in determining one’s dependency risk according to current policy) — compared to 23 percent of native headed households. Based on the study, the top countries for which welfare use was highest among their immigrant-heads of households in America were Mexico (57 percent), Guatemala (55 percent) and the Dominican Republic (54 percent).

The first deadline to offer a response to questions pertaining to the public charge policy was Aug. 20, but DHS offered nothing.

In September, the State Department provided some data points on the number of individuals denied visas on the basis of becoming a public charge and the number able to overcome that denial through an affidavit of support — but indicated that the majority of the senators’ inquiries about the policy falls under the purview of DHS.

Last week, the four senators — Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, Sen. Sessions and Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley — sent follow-up letters with an Oct. 1 deadline to both agencies pressing for a complete explanation as to how the watered down approach achieves congressional intent and numbers pertaining to the total number of applications received.

“Indeed, under 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 four senators wrote in their initial August request for answers.

DHS again missed that deadline Monday, as did the State Department.

The numbers and unresponsiveness have Sessions convinced that DHS and the federal government have something to hide.

“The Department of Homeland Security’s continued refusal to provide the requested information — which is readily accessible to them — demonstrates a desire to cover up their failure to enforce the law,” Sessions told TheDC, going on to add that the nation’s “immigration policy should not be conducted in secret. The American people have a right to know the answers to each and every item in our letters.”

The finding comes as TheDC reported Monday that the USDA has been conducting meetings with the Mexican government to promote food stamp use among Mexican immigrants and that the food stamp enrollment among non-citizens has doubled (reaching an estimated 1.63 million legal non-citizen participants) since President Barack Obama took office.

Participation in the food stamp program is one of the many government benefits that are considered inadmissible when the government reviews entry applications.

“The United States is borrowing huge sums of money from foreign nations to feed, house, clothe and support millions of their citizens now living in the U.S. who were supposed to be able to be able to support themselves,” Sessions added, noting that while Americans are struggling to find work, the government is “granting visas to those who will not only compete for available jobs but who will draw billions in financial assistance from US taxpayers.”

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