Politics

Homeland Security promotes welfare to new immigrants in government ‘welcome’ materials

Photo of Caroline May
Caroline May
Political Reporter

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, has taken a hard line against the federal government’s current open-door policy on immigrant welfare and believes DHS should take the Web page down.

“Some of these programs are clearly not available for immigrants,” Sessions told TheDC, “and it just creates confusion out there and suggests that if you can get into America, you can leave and get onto these programs, and from what we are seeing, many of these people are successful in getting on benefit programs that they are not lawfully entitled to.”

USCIS also offers new immigrants a guidebook to the United States, a portion of which details federal and state assistance programs including Medicare, Medicaid, TANF, food stamps, SSI and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. The guide, available online and in print, is called “Welcome to the United States: A Guide for New Immigrants.”

“Most hospitals are required by federal law to treat patients with a medical emergency even if the person cannot pay,” the guide tips. It goes on to advise that while “[y]ou or members of your family may be eligible for other federal benefits” it depends on “your immigration status, length of time in the U.S., and income.”

Wright said the guidebook, like the website, is not intended to offer eligibility advice.

“The guide is an information resource that directs permanent residents to sources of available information on a range of topics,” he wrote in an email. “The guide contains practical information to help immigrants settle into everyday life in the United States, as well as basic civics information that introduces new immigrants to the U.S. system of government.”

A Republican Budget Committee staffer noted that the issue is not only the offerings without eligibility, but also the fact that the government is providing immigrants visas with the expectation that they will avail themselves of government assistance.

“One of the important points about the legal problems with the DHS site and materials is not only the issue of immigrant eligibility, but the fact that U.S. immigration officials are obviously granting visas to those they believe will and should be receiving government assistance,” the staffer wrote in an email to TheDC. “Immigration law is supposed to operate so that individuals at risk for being placed on public assistance are not admitted in the first place.”

In fiscal year 2011, 0.068 percent of visa applications — 7,069 out of  10.37 million immigrant and non-immigrant applications processed by the State Department — were denied due to a dependency risk.

USCIS directs new immigrants to both the website and the guidebook.

“We advise all new permanent residents of the availability of the guide and the web site, WelcometoUSA.gov, when they receive their Permanent Resident Card,” Wright explained.

According to Sessions, it is inappropriate to promote government benefits to new immigrants who should be able to be self-sufficient when they arrive.

“Historically, the nation has understood that people who come to the country should not be dependent on the state,” he said. “And if you could not show that you were going to be independent, then you didn’t get admitted.”