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DHS admits it does not track immigrants who become welfare dependent, pursued zero cases last year

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February 13, 2013 in Politics

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In a response letter to four top Republican lawmakers, the Department of Homeland Security revealed it only initiated one case against an immigrant for becoming a “public charge,” or being primarily dependent upon the government, in fiscal year 2012. The case was later withdrawn.

While the department’s response to Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch and Pat Roberts’ August oversight request offered an overview of the centuries-old federal public-charge restrictions, it noticeably avoided several of the senators’ direct questions and demonstrated potentially significant inadequacies in record-keeping by immigration officials, who legally should be enforcing public-charge rules for immigrants both inside and outside of the country.

The response, for example, failed to explain why immigrants are only assessed for their potential reliance on just two of the more than 80 federal means-tested welfare programs when the government determines if they are “public charges” prior to their entry into the U.S. — meaning that they are likely to become primarily dependent on federal aid for subsistence after arriving.

The DHS letter, penned by Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Nelson Peacock, further failed to respond to the four Republican senators’ data requests pertaining to the the total number of visa applicants from 2001-2011 that were denied on public-charge grounds, or numbers on those who were granted visas despite a public-charge finding.

DHS also did not reveal how many immigrants from 2001-2011 became public charges after obtaining a visa or entering the country.

The department did, however, admit it does not have the data on immigrants who become public charges after gaining entry or a visa — despite, as Peacock writes in his letter, the fact that aliens “may also be found deportable on public charge grounds in accordance [immigration law], but only if they became public charges within the first five years after entry for causes that have not been affirmatively shown to have arisen since entry.”

Peacock explained that “historical data responsive for the number of aliens issued visas or otherwise admitted into the United States from 2001 to 2011 who became public charges and who were later issued Notices to Appear is unavailable,” because of “data entry quality and system changes that did not account for statistical tracking at this level.”


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