WASHINGTON (June 5, 1997) -- A legislative proposal for implementing aspects of the landmark balanced budget agreement which affect elderly and needy legal immigrants fails to meet "minimally acceptable standards" and should be rejected, according to Bishop John S. Cummins of Oakland (CA).
Bishop Cummins, who chairs the Bishops' Committee on Migration, voiced his concerns in a letter today to members of the House Ways and Means Committee after details of the draft legislation were made public Wednesday. The proposal drafted by Rep. Clay Shaw (R-FL), who chairs the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, would allow only those disabled legal immigrants receiving Supplemental Security Income benefits as of August 22, 1996, to continue receiving those benefits. No allowance was made in the draft for legal immigrants who were in the country on that date who might become disabled in the future.
"We believe that the chairman's mark does not meet minimally acceptable standards for ameliorating the harmful effects that last year's welfare reform law has had on noncitizens," Bishop Cummins wrote. "While we also believe that the bipartisan budget agreement's proposals on benefits for immigrants does not go far enough in restoring needed benefits for noncitizens, we encourage the Subcommittee and Committee to adopt the bipartisan budget agreement proposals instead of those contained in the chairman's mark."
Destitute elderly immigrants will be rendered ineligible for SSI under the Shaw proposal, solely because they were not receiving assistance last August 22. They will remain so even if their circumstances deteriorate and become even more desperate.
As pointed out in Bishop Cummins' letter and by John Swenson, the Executive Director of the U.S. Catholic Conference's Migration and Refugee Services, most legal immigrants in the United States have worked here for many years, paying taxes and contributing to society.
"Denying them access to assistance when they are in the most need is contrary to the basic values of this nation and violates the moral responsibility we have as a society to protect the least among us," said Swenson.
Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Catholic Conference is the largest private resettlement agency in the United States. Catholic dioceses in the United States have settled more than 800,000 refugees in this country since 1975. Total U.S. refugee admissions during that period were approximately 2.2 million.