Welfare Reform and Immigrants
Immigrant- and welfare-rights groups met with legislators in
early February to persuade them to include immigrants as part of a
welfare reform law that Congress must pass this September, reports
Arkady Kagan of the Russian Forward. Currently,
immigrants who arrived here after August 22, 1996 are ineligible
for Social Security, food stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid.
The more than 100 activists from 32 different groups, brought together by Grassroots Organizing for Welfare Leadership (GROWL), worry that Republicans will use the war and the cash-strapped economy as an excuse to exclude immigrants from the program. If conservatives have their way, immigrants who arrived before August 22, 1996 could have their benefits limited or cut. Refugees, who are allowed to claim benefits for the first seven years after their arrival, are also at risk of losing their Social Security and Medicaid if they have not become American citizens.
Defending legal immigrant's rights are relatively popular in the Senate, where Democrats have the majority, reports Kagan. But in the House, he says, it's seen as 'misguided generosity during a very expensive war.' One representative, John Conyers (D-Mich.) says that as long as Congress and the White House are managed through millions in contributions from Enrons and tobacco companies, there will never be genuine welfare reform. He offers a bleak picture: 'Instead, millions that should be invested in education, health insurance, and help for the unemployed will be given away by the government in the form of enormous tax advantages for big corporations.'