“Thousands of elderly and disabled refugees who have found safety in the United States in recent years may soon find out just how cold and equivocal America’s welcome can be. These vulnerable newcomers are subject to a federal law that cuts off their disability benefits if they do not become citizens within seven years.
The refugees fled war and persecution in places like Vietnam, Iraq and Somalia, and they bear the scars — many have lost limbs or their eyesight. They have built new lives here, with government help, including essential Supplemental Security Income benefits that will be withdrawn if they don’t get their citizenship papers.
While many have done so, thousands have found it impossible to meet the deadline. Some are old and infirm and have not yet been able to pass the language and civics test. Many others are caught in a bureaucratic trap: the notoriously hapless citizenship agency, overwhelmed by security paperwork since 9/11, has not finished their background checks in time.
The Social Security Administration estimates that more than 21,000 immigrants since 2003 have been cut off from disability checks for missing the seven-year deadline, and that about 35,000 more will be pushed off that cliff in the next five years unless something is done.
If you wonder who could possibly object to helping this small, fragile population, the answer is almost nobody. A bill to extend the limit to nine years passed the House last July by voice vote, with no objections, and it was to be offered for unanimous consent in the Senate. That is until Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, exercised his right to place a “hold” on the bill, sending it into limbo, where it remains.
What is Mr. DeMint’s problem? Is it hostility to immigrants or anything that smells like government assistance, even for the poor and disabled? He won’t say. Congress and the White House must insist on an explanation and press Mr. DeMint to lift his hold. Vulnerable people who have found refuge here must not be forced further into poverty because of a palsied bureaucracy’s inflexible deadlines — or one senator’s obstructionism.”
Senator DeMint’s problem is that he is ranked No 1, as the most conservative senator in the Republican party. In fact, he makes Rick Santorum look almost Democrat Blue by comparison:
Apart from stymieing this particular bill, in April 2007 Senator DeMint lodged a similar objection to a bipartisan bill to aid Hurricane Katrina and Federal Flood victims. Under Senate rules, DeMint’s objection was sufficient to shelve that legislation also.
It would appear that true American conservatism rules out any idea of helping those less well off than oneself.
But then, we knew that already, didn’t we?
Filed under: Cold as a DeMint