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Washington Times

Another GOP Pander To Hispanic Voters

By Sean Paige

February 11, 2002
Copyright © 2002
ProQuest Information and Learning. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2002
Washington Times Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

In what appears to be another GOP pander to Hispanic voters, the Bush administration reportedly will push to restore food-stamp benefits to 363,000 immigrants dropped from welfare rolls by the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. In 1998, benefits also were restored to 175,000 immigrants, mostly children and the elderly, who were in the United States before the reforms were enacted.

As spelled out in President George W Bush's fiscal 2003 budget, legal immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years automatically would qualify for food-stamp benefits, whereas the current post- 1996 law requires an individual to have worked in the United States for a minimum of 10 years before becoming eligible for food stamps.

Food-stamp participation fell from 25.5 million beneficiaries in 1996, when welfare reforms were instituted, to below 17 million early last year. But it had rebounded to 18.4 million by last fall, due largely to the faltering economy.

The latest action follows two other transparent plays to Hispanics by the White House: a voluntary withdrawal from the controversial live-fire U.S. Navy training range on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques and support for a mass amnesty of illegal immigrants. It evidently was pushed by similar proposals being floated by Democrats in the Senate, setting up a potential welfare rollback/vote-buying derby this spring in which each political party tries to outbid the other.

A House-passed farm bill proposed an annual increase of $300 million in foodstamp spending. The Senate version would more than double that, to $620 million. And the White House proposal is expected to increase spending on food stamps by more than $1 billion annually. How much higher the bidding might go before it's all over, nobody knows. Or seemingly cares.

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