Ranking Members of the Senate Judiciary, Finance, and Agriculture Committees, sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton. In their letter, the Senators ask for information about the criteria being used to identify potential immigrants and visa applicants as “public charges.” Under law, those likely to become dependent on government support are generally not eligible for admission into the United States, yet DHS and State currently consider only two of nearly 80 federal welfare programs in making that determination.
“Congress intended that immigrants who come to the United States should not become dependent on our expanding welfare system… the INA specifically states: ‘An alien who… is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible.’ … 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… Indeed, under your [agencies’] 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.’
“Dear Secretary Napolitano and Secretary Clinton:
We write to express our concern with your agencies’ interpretation of section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) regarding inadmissible aliens. It was recently brought to our attention that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has an ongoing partnership with Mexico through which Mexican consular offices encourage non-citizen enrollment in USDA welfare programs. It is our understanding that the materials distributed by the consular offices assure those being recruited that reliance on SNAP benefits, or food stamps, will not be taken into account when considering the merits of an application for a visa or adjustment of status. Further review of Department of State and Department of Homeland Security protocols indicate that this policy applies to dozens of other welfare programs as well.
Because Congress intended that immigrants who come to the United States should not become dependent on our expanding welfare system, the INA specifically states:
“An alien who, in the opinion of the consular officer at the time of application for a visa, or in the opinion of the Attorney General at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible.”
It has long been a sound principle of immigration law that those who seek citizenship in this country ought to be financially self-sufficient. 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 Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
Read more at budget.senate.gov