GOP senators press ‘Gang of 8’ members on welfare costs for newly legalized immigrants

Three Republican senators have called on the GOP members of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” the group currently putting together a proposal to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, to answer questions related to legalized undocumented immigrants accessing welfare benefits.

“A primary concern related to a large-scale legalization of illegal immigrants is the long-term cost for taxpayers,” Sens. Chuck Grassley, Jeff Sessions and Pat Roberts said in a Wednesday letter to the Republican Gang of Eight members. “The public comments from your group have created confusion.”

“We therefore write to seek your clarification and to obtain concrete information about the long-term costs that will be imposed on taxpayers once millions of illegal immigrants eventually become eligible not only for our nation’s major entitlements but approximately 80 different means-tested welfare and low-income assistance programs,” the trio continued.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Arizona Sen. John McCain, and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake  are the four Republican members of the Gang of Eight. They are joined on the Democratic side by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, Colorado Sen. Michael Bennett and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin.

As The Daily Caller previously reported, Grassley, Sessions, and Roberts have pressed the Obama administration since last year on the enforcement of immigration laws ostensibly prohibiting a public charge, or someone primarily dependent on government assistance, from coming to the U.S. or changing their immigration status. The trio were joined in that effort by Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

“It has long been a sound principle of immigration law that those who seek citizenship in this country ought to be financially self-sufficient,” the senators wrote last year in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and then-State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton seeking additional information about the public charge statute.

The senators pointed out that immigration officials may currently only consider potential reliance on Supplemental Security Insurance and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in making a public charge finding. “We were thus shocked to discover that both the State Department and DHS exclude reliance on almost all governmental welfare programs when evaluating whether an alien is likely to become a public charge,” they wrote.

The three senators referenced their requests in the letter to the GOP members of the Gang of Eight.

“As we discovered through several oversight requests from the Agriculture, Budget, and Judiciary Committees, existing federal immigration law designed to protect taxpayers is not enforced by this administration,” they wrote. “One of the biggest challenges facing any reform of our nation’s immigration laws is the refusal of this administration to enforce the laws already on the books.”

After publication, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant responded to The Daily Caller’s request for comment about the letter.

“There is no question that modernizing our immigration system will be help grow our economy and improve our nation’s finances,” Conant wrote in an email to TheDC. “Senator Rubio and the other seven senators are still working on the legislation, but once it’s completed, we will ask for an in-depth, dynamic study of its long-term benefits and costs. Importantly, no illegal immigrant will receive Federal benefits under our proposal. The Democrats have already agreed to partially repeal Obamacare for illegal immigrants, which is a key concession. Any suggestion that this legislation will extend welfare to illegal immigrants is simply false.”