While Nation Teeters on Fiscal Cliff, Immigration Policy Imports Poverty

Published on November 14th, 2012

By Joe Guzzardi
October 3, 2012

Here’s more utter nonsense from Capitol Hill. Hoping to avert what legislators predict may be the road to a “fiscal cliff,” Senate leaders plan to use the upcoming lame duck session between the November election and the 113th Congress to reach a comprehensive long term debt reduction agreement. Their goal is to slash $4 trillion from the federal debt during the next decade. This would be achieved through revenue raised by a tax code revision as well as savings generated by revamped social programs like Social Security, Medicare and food stamps.

At the same time, however, the United States continues to import poverty in the form of legal immigrants who are dependent on the same social services that the Senate wants to restrict. Ironically, immigration law expressly bars those seeking entry to the U. S. who may become “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence,” or as they are more commonly referred to, public charges. Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act explains that immigrants are “inadmissible” to the United States if the U.S. Attorney General or any consular officer who interacts with them determines that he or she “is likely at any time to become a public charge.”

Yet of the 80 welfare programs that should disqualify immigrants, only two are actually counted against them, Supplemental Social Security (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). DHS argues, however, that non-cash or special-purpose cash benefits are considered supplemental in nature and do not make the recipient primarily dependent on the government. Therefore, according to U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services spokesman Christopher Bentley: “Past, current, or future receipt of these benefits do not impact a public charge determination.”

Unquestionably, immigration policy as currently applied increases U.S. poverty levels. A new Center for Immigration Studies report titled “Immigrants in the United States: a Profile of American Foreign-Born Population” uses 2010 data and found that of the 46.2 million people in the United States are living in poverty. Of those, 11.9 million or 25.8 percent, are immigrants. Among persons under age 18 below the poverty line, 31.1 percent are either immigrants or the young children of immigrant fathers.

Ranking Republicans who sit on the Senate Finance, Agriculture, Budget, and Judiciary Committees (Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley have been pressing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security for an answer to the obvious question: “Why, if the nation is indeed on the edge of a “fiscal cliff,” would the government persist in importing poverty?” The Senators charge that DHS is deliberately trying to conceal from the American public its immigration policy as it relates to welfare.

While pursuing the scandal’s depth, Senator Jeff Sessions learned that virtually no immigrant applicant is denied based on his financial standing. In FY 2011, out of more than 10.37 million (immigrant and non-immigrant) applications the State Department processed, only 7,069 were declared ineligible (.068 percent) based on the likelihood that they would become public charges. However, since petitioners can reapply and many eventually are able to reverse the original denial, the net percentage of those rejected on public dependency grounds dropped to an infinitesimal .003 percent. To date, DHS and State Department officials have rebuffed the Senators. Two deadlines for replies have been ignored. But that’s how the administration handles immigration. Unless it can be converted into a vote getting vehicle, the Obama administration pretends that more immigration is better regardless of its financial or emotional cost to the nation.


Joe Guzzardi is a Californians for Population Stabilization Senior Writing Fellow whose columns have been syndicated since 1986. Contact him at [email protected]

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