Press Releases

“We have learned this week from the Congressional Research Service that the United States now spends more on welfare than any other federal program… [Yet] the Administration continues a vast array of controversial promotions to further expand enrollment, when the focus should be on expanding economic growth and opportunity… Such activities cannot be justified to the American people, which probably explains why the Administration has been unwilling to provide answers.”

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued a statement today after USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack missed the deadline to reply to oversight questions about the agency’s formal partnership with Mexico to boost food stamp enrollment among foreign nationals. Vilsack, in a previous letter, acknowledged at least 30 meetings between USDA and Mexico as part of the partnership.

Sessions’ comments follow:

“We have learned this week from the Congressional Research Service that the United States now spends more on welfare than any other federal program—including Medicare, Social Security, or defense. Yet the Administration continues a vast array of controversial promotions to further expand enrollment, when the focus should be on expanding economic growth and opportunity.

One particularly indefensible promotion is USDA’s official partnership with Mexican consulates to increase food stamp registration among foreign nationals. This lies contrary to both sound economics and sound immigration policy.

The USDA was given a deadline of yesterday to provide needed information to Congress regarding the details of this partnership and has failed to do so. This is deeply concerning.

Included in the oversight letter was a request for information about USDA’s contact with the Departments of State and Homeland Security regarding immigration law. Both DHS and DOS have effectively nullified the federal law that prohibits admission into the U.S. for those likely to become welfare reliant, further enabling USDA to surge non-citizen registration.

Such activities cannot be justified to the American people, which probably explains why the Administration has been unwilling to provide answers.”

BACKGROUND:

To view the report from CRS, along with a Budget Committee background summary explaining the $1.03 trillion spent last year on federal welfare, pleaseclick here. To learn more about the Departments of Homeland Security and State waiving federal immigration law with respect to welfare, please click here.

Sessions’ oversight requests to Vilsack follow:

  • A summary of each of the meetings, events, and activities alluded to in your most recent letter regarding the SNAP-Mexico partnership that have occurred since 2009
  • An estimate of how much is spent each year on food stamp benefits for non-citizens from 2001 through today, broken down by year
  • An explanation of USDA’s legal understanding of the federal “public charge” immigration law as it applies to USDA-administered welfare and nutrition programs
  • Any guidance, including memos or emails, shared between USDA, DOS, or DHS concerning the “public charge” standard and USDA-administered welfare and nutrition programs
  • One 2011 USDA document entitled “The Benefits of Increasing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Participation in Your State” declares that “[i]n Fiscal Year 2009, only 72 percent of those eligible for SNAP benefits participated,” adding: “their communities lose out on the benefits provided by new SNAP dollars flowing into local economies.” Forty-seven million Americans now receive food stamps.  What share of the eligible population, including those categorically eligible, does USDA believe to be currently enrolled?  If USDA’s enrollment goals were reached, how many people would currently be receiving food stamps?