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Public Statements

Administration Shrouds Visa Data In Secrecy As Evidence Shows Welfare Law Not Being Enforced

Press Release

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement today after the Department of Homeland Security refused to provide Congress with basic numerical info about the enforcement of welfare restrictions for those seeking admittance to the United States:

"Basic annual data on visa applications is easily and readily producible. But yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security missed yet another deadline to provide this info as requested by four Senate committees. DHS, along with the State Department, has also refused to explain why departmental guidelines effectively waive the legal requirement that individuals are ineligible for entry into the United States if they are likely to become reliant on welfare. Our initial assessment of State Department data on "public charge' denials further indicates that eligibility standards are being waived. Given what we already know, and the otherwise inexplicable refusal for DHS to reply to such a simple inquiry, it necessarily suggests that the executive branch is trying to prevent the public from discovering its failure to follow U.S. immigration and welfare law."

BACKGROUND:

On August 6, Sessions and Sens. Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, and Pat Roberts (Ranking Members of the Senate Judiciary, Finance, and Agriculture Committees, respectively) wrote to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton regarding the apparent waiver of a U.S. law that requires that potential immigrants and visa applicants not be welfare reliant. That law 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."

In their letter, the Senators said that they were "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." In fact, the Departments consider "reliance on only two of nearly 80 federal welfare programs as evidence of likelihood of becoming a public charge." The Senators went on: "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.'"

After DHS ignored an initial deadline, the Senators first raised concerns that DHS was "attempting to conceal information from the American people."


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