Sessions: DHS Letter Confirms Public Charge Immigration Law Not Being Enforced

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, issued a statement today regarding the long-delayed response from the Department of Homeland Security about the Administration’s apparent waiving of federal law with respect to welfare restrictions for immigrants. The response indicated that, in 2012, not a single immigrant was identified by the federal government as being a public charge:

“The law that excludes immigrants from entry if they are likely to become a public charge is not being enforced, a response from DHS to four Senate committees reveals. The response exposes a major weakness in our immigration system and violates core immigration principles of the United States, and indeed the principles of most developed nations. This failure further demonstrates the dysfunction in our immigration system. We turn down countless people seeking to immigrate who have every prospect of being successful and self-sufficient while admitting large numbers who are statistically likely to become dependent on federal assistance.”


In August of last year, the Ranking Members of the Senate Budget, Judiciary, Finance, and Agriculture Committees requested basic information about visa denials after learning that only two of roughly 80 federal welfare programs were officially considered when evaluating whether a visa applicant was likely to become a “public charge”; i.e., dependent on government assistance. Immigration law clearly states that “An alien who… is likely at any time to become a public charge is inadmissible.”

Despite this prohibition, the Administration has engaged in an aggressive campaign to actively recruit immigrants to sign up for welfare. DHS even has a page, WelcomeToUSA.gov, that advises new immigrants of all the welfare benefits they may wish to sign up for (including some which, by law, should automatically make them inadmissible). Yet even with campaigns designed to enroll more immigrants on welfare, the response received from DHS this week revealed that the Department could not find a single immigrant who received such benefits in the last year. DHS data also shows that virtually no one—just 9,700 applications out of more than 116 million—was turned away on the public charge basis between FY 2005 and FY 2011.