Welfare: food stamps, drug tests, and a question of Citizenship

After browsing through the coupon deals and advertisements I doom to my rarely-accessed Yahoo mail account, I stumbled upon a Yahoo news update on welfare and illegal immigration.  Written by Liz Goodwin (2012), the piece talked about Alabama passing a law to deny food stamps to undocumented workers.  While the law’s aim is to comply with current federal stipulations that only American citizens should be able to access welfare benefits, it has come under fire by civil rights groups for preventing the children of these immigrants, natural U.S. born citizens, from receiving this aid.

As an American citizen, I am more than a bit outraged when I read articles like this.  Just the way the title of the article was written: “Alabama’s immigration law: Denying children food stamps”  immediately changes the focus of the conversation.  The issue at stake isn’t taking away food from kids.  It’s a question of whether non-citizens should be allowed to take advantage of the system by using their children as a meal ticket.  The fact is, we already have way too many illegal aliens living in the U.S.; the annual Homeland Security report of Population Estimates projects the 2011 census of illegals to be around 10.8 million.

Now imagine how many of these people depend on free government aid, or are at least getting paid under the table.

Of course, this question opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms.  Consider how many Americans are on welfare.  Yes, there are people who take advantage of the system.  Yes, the rules are outdated and far too lax, for everyone.  I like the popular internet meme recently making its way around facebook:

“Shouldn’t you have to pass a urine test to collect a welfare check, since I have to pass one to earn it for you?”

Now, according to the New York Times in their article “States Adding Drug Test as Hurdle for Welfare,” experts dispute whether the savings from refusing aid to drug users would overshadow the costs of testing itself.  Additionally, they say that refusals to mandate testing come from a Michigan ruling that considers welfare testing as a “violation of the constitutional protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” (Sulzberger, 2011).


Excuse me, but what does “unreasonable search and seizure” have to do with receiving federal aid?  Last time I checked, students convicted of possession (and we’re talking marijuana here, not even “real” drugs) can lose their FAFSA scholarships and government living stipends, both academic and sports-related.  FAFSA recipients must also be fully American citizens, or else included on their short list of acceptable candidates- think human trafficking refugees and documented U.S. residents.  With many deserving students being shut out of the government’s scholarship programs, why are we making such ridiculous exceptions for welfare recipients?

And yes, I realize there is the whole human rights angle to consider.  After all, it’s really not these children’s fault for being born into an undocumented or drug-afflicted family, just like children of gay couples or insurance fraud masterminds should not be marginalized based on who their parents are or what they choose to do (By the way, I am all for gay marriage and family rights, but that’s a different post).

Still, it just doesn’t seem right that hardworking American citizens have to give up their money to support non tax-paying parents who come to the U.S. to have their anchor babies and use their children to abuse the system.  Can’t we come up with a better way to help these immigrants help themselves, instead of encouraging them to live on government handouts that aren’t legally theirs?  In this current economic downturn, the real question we need to consider is why do we allow illegal immigrants access to resources paid for by citizens, meant for citizens?  After all, if you benefit from the system, you should have to pay into it in the first place.  But who knows, maybe we’re just trying to avoid another Social Security debaucle?

I’d like to hear from you. What are your thoughts on providing various forms of free care to non-citizens?  I know this is a heated issue and I’m curious to pick your brains.

Until then,

Sources for this blog post:

source: http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/publications/student_guide/2009-2010/english/amieligible.htm



If you want to read the original article, you can find it here:


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