Category: Archive

Editorial: Everybody’s lament

February 15, 2011

By Staff Reporter

When the record of this Congress with regard to immigration law is passed into the hands of historians, there will be the usual sifting and objective assessment that historians are obliged to go through before the final words are written. Journalism, being a first draft of history, is by its very nature more visceral in its dealings with the contemporary thoughts, words and deeds of politicians. So, without further ado, let us assess the record of this, the 105th Congress, in the matter of its treatment of immigrants: It stinks!

Mention has been made in these pages before of the outrageous and insulting assault by Congress in recent years on hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants in this country, primarily through the smokescreen of welfare reform. The 1996 welfare-reform measures stripped away many basic benefits from legal residents, not least food stamps and supplemental social security income, SSI. While welfare reform was a scatter gun, taking aim at citizen and non-citizen alike, the measures as they applied to legal residents were especially punitive. So much so that Congress, at President Clinton’s urging, assented to rolling back some of the harsher effects of its dubious work, particularly as it pertained to children, the elderly and the disabled.

But, as a recent New York Times editorial pointed out, Trent Lott, the Senate’s majority leader, and Sen. Phil Gramm, have busied themselves holding up a floor vote on a conference bill that could restore food stamps to as many as 250,000 legal immigrants who lived in the U.S. before the ’96 reforms and who qualify for one of the above three categories. Congress is hardly breaking the bank in contemplating this relatively minor rollback. But it is breaking the backs of many real people while it dithers.

Lott and Gramm might not have to depend on food stamps, but as sure as elections roll around, there have been earlier generations of Lotts and Gramms who most assuredly felt the pinch of hunger and exclusion. Or perhaps not. Perhaps being fat and sassy is, for the Lotts and Gramms, simply a matter of genetic inheritance.

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