The Food Stamp President of Mexico

President Obama has rightly become known as the Food Stamp President, as enrollment in the program has exploded during his administration. Obama’s Department of Agriculture believes its mission is to get as many people on the program as possible, and it has succeeded magnificently, as one-seventh of Americans–an astonishing 46 million–are now on food stamps.

But, as is so often the case with the Obama administration, the facts are even worse than they first appear. The Daily Caller reports that the Obama administration is partnering with the government of Mexico to get more Mexican immigrants and Mexican-Americans on food stamps:

The Mexican government has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture to increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or food stamps.

USDA has an agreement with Mexico to promote American food assistance programs, including food stamps, among Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and migrant communities in America. …

The partnership … sees to it that the Mexican Embassy and Mexican consulates in America provide USDA nutrition assistance program information to Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals working in America and migrant communities in America. The information is specifically focused on eligibility criteria and access.

The goal, for USDA, is to get rid of what they see as enrollment obstacles and increase access among potentially eligible populations by working with arms of the Mexican government in America.

The Obama administration has tried to deflect questions about the Mexico partnership by saying that the program was started by the Bush administration in 2004. (Is that a familiar refrain, or what?) Perhaps so, but spending on food stamps has doubled since 2008, and it is reasonable to suspect that the Obama administration has ramped up whatever partnership may have preexisted it.

Senator Jeff Sessions, who has been leading an effort to reform the food stamp program, wrote yesterday to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, posing a series of questions about the Department’s partnership with Mexico:

The USDA has an ongoing partnership with the Mexican Government as part of a campaign to increase food stamp enrollment among both citizen and non-citizen immigrants, including those who may only reside in the country part-time. My Budget Committee staff recently asked USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to furnish materials relating to this partnership and the expenditure of taxpayer dollars, such as SNAP literature that is being distributed through Mexican consular offices. Despite these requests, that material has not been provided.

Of course not. Stonewalling is seemingly the preferred tactic of every agency of the Obama administration. Sessions therefore went on to request a series of materials about the Mexican program from Vilsack. Sessions also asked a series of questions, including this one about food stamps and illegal immigrants:

Under current regulations illegal immigrants may obtain food stamp benefits for their household if other members of the household are deemed eligible but not for themselves. States must determine if applicants (or household members for whom the benefits are sought) are citizens or are qualified aliens eligible for benefits. Verification standards, however, vary widely. Applicants need only attest that they are citizens of the United States, and the state must accept that attestation as conclusive. Some states currently voluntarily participate in the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program, which allows administrators to run a simple check to determine if non-citizen applicants are eligible for benefits. States that do not use SAVE to verify alien status may simply accept the applicant’s attestation of legal status as a substitute for verification or, alternately, may accept submitted documents without checking their veracity. Does USDA support implementing SAVE in every state to ensure existing law is enforced?

The background on this is that Sessions has introduced an amendment to the SNAP act that would require the states to use SAVE to verify eligibility for the program, but Harry Reid has refused to allow a vote on the amendment.

Sessions concludes with remarks that go straight to the heart of the Obama administration’s philosophy of welfare:

It is a sound principle of immigration policy that those who come to America be able to take care of themselves financially. This “partnership” and related consulate activity appears to assume that principle is no longer in effect.

It has become increasingly clear that the mission of the food stamp program has moved from targeted welfare assistance for those in need into an aggressive drive to expand enrollment regardless of need. To cite just one example, a character in a USDA-produced Spanish language “radio novela” tries to convince a friend to enroll in food stamps even though that individual says, “I don’t need anyone’s help. My husband earns enough to take care of us.” The first individual responds, “When are you going to learn?” Pride ought to be celebrated, not mocked.

The compassionate policy is not seeking to place the largest possible number of people on welfare support–pressuring, even intimidating, those who resist.

The Obama administration’s push to expand the food stamp program is of a piece with its casual elimination of welfare work requirements. The more people dependent on government, the better. And these actions dovetail with Obama’s belief that those who prosper in America didn’t really build their businesses, but rather succeeded, whether they realize it or not, through government largesse and government sufferance. Since government help is the sine qua non, why should it be withheld from anyone? Like the grace of God, it cannot be earned but can only be bestowed. Thus does Barack Obama’s political philosophy pervade every aspect of his administration.

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