WASHINGTON (November 12, 1997) -- Two Roman Catholic Bishops today called for the Clinton Administration to remember the plight of hungry legal immigrants as it crafts its 1999 Federal Budget. Bishop John Cummins of Oakland, California, Chair of the Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services Committee, and Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane, Washington, Chair of the Bishops' Domestic Policy Committee, issued a statement today during the annual meeting of the U.S. Bishops in Washington.
The two bishops said that the "one million legal immigrants who are affected by the Federal government's denial of food stamps are individuals and families here with the full knowledge, permission and welcome of our government." They urged the President, on behalf of the U.S. Catholic Conference, to include sufficient money to reinstate funding for Food Stamps for legal immigrants as part of the 1999 Federal Budget.
Most non-citizens are self sufficient and prior to the enactment of welfare reform just over 4 percent of all individuals receiving food stamp assistance were immigrants . Nearly two-thirds of those who lost their food stamp assistance were women and one in six are children under 18. Another one-sixth are elderly age 60, and above.
The bishops added: "The hardship of their poverty is only compounded by the cruelty of choice many will be forced to make between food and rent, or food and clothing for a growing family, or food and electricity. Such choices need not be made by families in a country as wealthy as ours. As bishops, we have a moral obligation to speak for the least among us; as a nation, we have a moral obligation to meet their needs."
Pointing to the work of Catholic Charities agencies throughout the country, the bishops acknowledged private charity's role in providing for the needy, but "it cannot make up for the loss of public funds totaling $3.7 billion over five years."
The key to the Food Stamp program is that it uniformly assists poor children and families get the nutrition they need. While states can now purchase food stamps for legal immigrants from the federal government at state expense, the vast majority of states have chosen not to do so. "This inconsistency in aid for a need as basic as food is unacceptable and we reiterate that freedom from hunger is a national responsibility," the bishops said.