November 26, 2012
Across America, officials in nearly bankrupt cities and states are outraged by the Department of Homeland Security’s new website that explains to recently arrived immigrants how they can receive the entire federal welfare benefit cornucopia. The site, Welcome to USA.gov, maintained by DHS’s U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), promotes itself as the “primary gateway for new immigrants to find basic information on how to settle in the United States.” Included is a comprehensive section which shows point by point how to access federal benefits and also reminds immigrants that public K-12 education is free.
Using language intended to encourage immigrants to apply, the site explains in detail how to obtain food stamps, Medicare, disability, temporary assistance for needy families and other generous benefits. Another website, Benefits.gov provides more information about most of the 80 available federal programs. USCIS also publishes and distributes a guidebook, available online and downloaded worldwide, that advises immigrants how to receive state benefits.
In Washington, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-ALA), the ranking Republican Senate Budget Committee member, leads the escalating fight over welfare for recent immigrants. Sessions and other Republican Senators sent U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack a letter demanding to know why food stamps and other welfare benefits are being promoted to new immigrants. Historically, one of the immigration exclusion clauses—something that would make an alien ineligible to enter the U.S.—was if he were probable to become a public charge. An immigrant’s sponsor would have to sign a letter saying he would provide financial support. Courts later declared such letters unenforceable. Ever since, immigrants have had relatively easy access to welfare.
The questionable practice of inviting immigrants to access costly taxpayer funded services when they should be self-sufficient is a problem that has been escalating for nearly a decade.
Sessions learned that in 2004 the USDA signed a pact with Mexico requiring the 50 U.S.-based consulates to distribute information to Mexican nationals on how to obtain welfare. The agency also created a Spanish-language ad in which an individual is encouraged to accept food stamps, even though he may say his family is self-sufficient.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance [SNAP], another USDA program more commonly known as food stamps, has a website that includes a "community outreach partner tool kit" that falsely claims that local communities "lose out" when eligible people don’t apply for benefits because boosting participation generates billions in “new economic activity.”
A SNAP pamphlet says Electronic Benefits Cards, which allow welfare recipients to withdraw cash and pay for food and other items, "make it more difficult to commit SNAP fraud." The ad also deceptively states: "Everyone wins when eligible people take advantage of benefits to which they are entitled." Another site offers SNAP recruiters suggestions on how to "overcome the word ‘no’" when seeking to sign up new recipients.
Immigrant welfare dependency has contributed to a huge jump in national welfare use. The Congressional Research Service found that overall welfare spending as measured by obligations grew from $563 billion in fiscal 2008 to $746 billion in fiscal 2011, a 32 percent increase. Including state spending, the aggregate welfare tab reached $103 trillion, larger than social security or basic military spending.
A recent Center for Immigration Studies census data analysis found that 36 percent of immigrant heads of households, both legal and illegal, used at least one form of welfare in 2010 compared to 23 percent of native born heads of household.
What’s happened with immigration and welfare is proof that Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman was right when he said that no nation can survive open borders and a welfare state.
Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org