Congress is again considering waiving requirements that immigrants not abuse the Supplement Security Income (SSI) system. It is little known that SSI is the main cash welfare program for many groups of immigrants, especially the elderly, as well as so-called refugees and asylees. Since the 1996 Act, Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, that required refugees and aslyees, as well as regular immigrants, to obtain citizenship to remain eligible for SSI, there have been continuous waivers of the requirement. Why, because it was so effective. But it was not to be, as this, like most other restrictions on welfare use by immigrants has gone by the wayside.
One year ago, Congress gave a temporary lifeline to thousands of older and disabled refugees. It extended for another 12 months their eligibility for cash assistance under the Supplemental Security Income program, which, for many, was their only source of income. That Congress had to do this was an unfortunate side effect of a 1996 law that placed strict time limits on benefits for refugees who did not become citizens within seven years.
Those limits were intended to persuade refugees to naturalize — well-meaning but mistaken. Thousands who had fled to the United States from places like Iran, Somalia, Cuba and Russia were simply unable to meet the deadline. Some of these men and women were very old and sick, blind or mentally disabled. Some were homebound and too poor to pay for English lessons or administrative fees, unable to understand or complete the paperwork or were caught in processing backlogs.
They were — and remain — an unusually vulnerable population. As refugees, they are all survivors of persecution, torture or warfare. Many have no relatives here. Too old or disabled to work, they rely on government aid for basic food and housing needs.
Since 2008, Congress has passed a series of stopgap bills to keep the aid flowing. The latest extension expires Friday when at least 2,195 refugees will immediately lose their benefits. Another 400 to 500 are expected to be cut off from aid each month as their eligibility runs out. The money is small — about $674 a month for an individual, $1,011 for a couple — and the total needed is a microscopic fraction of the federal budget. Supporters estimate it would cost $178 million for a two-year benefit extension and have identified offsetting spending cuts to pay for it. But generosity and bipartisanship are in eclipse on Capitol Hill, and passage is not certain.
Congress should quickly do what is right and pass the extension. Then, the link between naturalization and life-saving benefits for the old, sick and disabled should be severed. An offer of solace and shelter to victims of war and torture should be real and permanent, not subject to political whims and yearly rethinking.
Of course, what the NYT does not tell the reader is that these elderly supposed refugees and asyless are not the victims of some oppressive government, but did, in fact, derive their status from another person, sometimes a child, sometimes an in-law, but they almost never obtained refugee status based on any persecution of them. They were just related to someone who claimed it. And in most cases, even that was a lie. The main source of refugees to the U.S. who are living on welfare are Russian Evangelicals or Jews who left Russia after the collapse of Communism, usually well after, including from the late 90s to the present. Yes, to this day Russian Evangelicals and Jews are still as oppressed as they were under Communism. That, obviously, is not true.
Some years ago, these Russian refugees were notorious for arriving in the U.S., registering for welfare, SSI, etc. but then returning to Holy Mother Russia to live, as the dollar went further there and they were more comfortable in their own culture. Of course the U.S. government refused to revoke their refugee or asylee status even though they had, as the law says, availed themselves of the protection of the government from which they were supposedly oppressed by.
The political asylum system in the U.S. is just another manner of immigration remarkably similar to the standard immigration system based on family relationships.
Priority Three is similar to the P-2 in that it is a group category for which only certain nationalities are eligible. However, P-3 is reserved for certain family members of refugees already in the US. In FY 2004, the US expanded the number of nationalities eligible for P-3 status, but in doing so also narrowed the immigration status and qualifying relationships of the so-called "anchor relatives" in the United States. As it stands now, eligibility for P-3 status is reserved for spouses, unmarried children under 21, and parents of persons already lawfully admitted to the US as asylees or refugees (or those who have adjusted from those statuses).
And it is not just the Russians who are abusing it, the Somalis are other notorious abusers of the system. But unlike the Russians, who are mostly welfare abusers and common criminals, the Somalis also add terrorism to what they bring to the United States.
Another aspect of this is that USCIS has been fraudulently naturalizing many of these immigrants by failing to apply the English and civics test to these immigrants. Most pass the testing with a wink and an nod. But in any event after the age of 55 immigrants don't have to know English and can easily obtain a waiver for the civics portion of the test.
So in the end, we have RINOs surrendering again on welfare reform. The 96 Act was supposed to end welfare abuse by immigrants, but since then welfare use by immigrants has only expanded as the Congress and the President slowly repealed the restrictions or failed to enforce the laws concerning public charges.