Republicans: DHS ‘attempting to conceal information from the American people’ about immigrant welfare policies

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Four powerful Republican senators are demanding answers to questions they posited to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in early August regarding the apparent watering down of immigration regulations which prohibit those seeking residency or citizenship from being primarily reliant on welfare, or a public charge.

The Department of Homeland Security missed the Aug. 20 deadline and has yet to respond. Also addressed in the initial letter was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The State Department did respond, claiming that the majority of the inquiry fell under the purview of DHS.

In a letter sent to Napolitano Tuesday, and obtained by The Daily Caller, the ranking members of the Senate Finance, Agriculture, Budget, and Judiciary Committees —- Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley respectively — requested answers to their initial questions, specifically pertaining to why participation in a majority of welfare programs fails to disqualify immigrants who apply for admission or status adjustments.

“Your failure to respond to our oversight request is deeply troubling, and suggests that your Department is attempting to conceal information from the American people,” the senators wrote.

The four demanded that the Department offer all the data they requested back on Aug. 6 — an explanation about how the watered down approach fits congressional intent, the number of aliens denied admittance due to being a dependency risk, the number that became a public charge once admitted, the number admitted even though they were a dependency risk because the applicant offered an affidavit of support, and if the answers are unavailable, why the agencies do not track the data.

In their most recent letter, the senators also ask for the number of applications received each year.

A GOP senate staffer noted to TheDC that the information should be readily available and easy to provide.

“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 in their initial Aug. 6 request. “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. Your agencies apply a cramped interpretation of the law in this regard, considering reliance on only two of nearly 80 federal welfare programs as evidence of likelihood of becoming a public charge: Supplemental Social Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).”

They further noted that agency guidelines prohibit consideration of food stamp benefits, Medicaid, child-care benefits, energy assistance, WIC payments, educational assistance and more when analyzing applications for citizenship and status changes.

“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,’” they wrote on Aug. 6.

The State Department did not offer an explanation of the approach but did offer a response to two of the data requests, in a response to the senators Sept. 17.

According to the letter from the State Department — obtained by TheDC — from 2001 to 2011 118,004 immigrants and 11,233 nonimmigrants, or those seeking temporary admission, were denied visas based on INA 212 (a)(4), the regulation which prohibits admission of aliens likely to “at any time become a public charge.”

Of the 118,004 immigrant visa applications denied under the regulation, 113,087 were able to overcome the ineligibility finding and obtain visas based on an affidavit of support by a sponsor. Of the 11,233 nonimmigrants denied based on the public charge risk, 1,974 were granted a visa based on an affidavit of support.

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