Press Releases

“The reply makes no attempt to justify the program itself or the idea that we should partner with a foreign government to persuade immigrants and foreign nationals to become dependent on U.S. government support. Not only is this unwise as a matter of policy, but it is unaffordable during a time of $16 trillion debt… Heightening my concern is the fact that USDA has failed to provide almost all of the information requested in the oversight letter…” 

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued the following statement today regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s inadequate response to his oversight request about its partnership with Mexico to boost enrollment in food stamps and fourteen other overlapping nutritional support programs:

“USDA’s initial reply effectively acknowledges ongoing meetings with the Mexican government as part of a campaign to expand and encourage food stamp enrollment among Mexican nationals, migrant workers, and non-citizen immigrants. The reply makes no attempt to justify the program itself or the idea that we should partner with a foreign government to persuade immigrants and foreign nationals to become dependent on U.S. government support. Not only is this unwise as a matter of policy, but it is unaffordable during a time of $16 trillion debt.

Heightening my concern is the fact that USDA has failed to provide almost all of the information requested in the oversight letter, including information on these very meetings between USDA and the Mexican government. I expect USDA to swiftly comply in full to all aspects of the request, much of which can and should be producible immediately. Requested items missing from USDA’s response include: a list of all activities and meetings between USDA and Mexico to increase enrollment; all outreach materials being distributed through consular offices; all internal guidance documents relating to the partnership; whether individuals are enrolling within consular offices; whether recruitment material is being distributed within Mexico; the number of non-citizens enrolled now and in recent years; and, given the seemingly lax verification, whether USDA supports the SAVE program to verify eligible status.

USDA did provide the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding, executed under the Bush administration, which first established the partnership, as well as some current recruitment material that is already posted to their website. This memo, along with the recruitment material, makes clear that the USDA is marketing fifteen separate welfare nutrition programs as part of this campaign and sees its goal as maximizing enrollment in each of them.

It is time to re-engage the national conversation about how to deliver welfare and to consider how the nearly 80 welfare programs are now being administered by the government. That includes a top-down review of the broken culture at USDA. No longer can the goal of this Administration be to simply maximize the number of people receiving welfare support. The better goal is to target resources to those in true need while helping more people transition from dependency to self-sufficiency.”

BACKGROUND

  • To view Sessions’ initial letter requesting information and documents about the program, please click here.
  • To view an example of USDA’s food stamp outreach, a Spanish-language ad in which an individual is pressured into accepting food stamps even though she says her family is financially self-sufficient, please click here.
  • To view Vilsack’s response to Sessions, please click here.
  • To view the signed 2004 partnership agreement, please click here.