Republican presses to find out how much food stamp aid going to migrants crossing border

"They're all seeking asylum and that automatically qualifies you — or a refugee status, or if you're 18 or younger, you qualify" for food stamps, Rep. Scott DesJarlais says.
Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., participates in the press conference calling on President Trump to declassify the Carter Page FISA applications on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tenn.) said that food stamps are going to most people who are crossing the southern border, despite denials from Democrats.

DesJarlais told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Tuesday that, while Democrats claim food stamps, or SNAP benefits as they are formally known, only go to minors, asylum seekers, and refugees — most of the people entering the U.S. fit into those categories.

"According to the Biden administration, the USDA, it's very difficult" for border-crossers to obtain SNAP benefits, he said. "But if you look at the list of reasons and exclusions of those who can get it, it includes about everyone crossing the border today.

"Nobody comes here just saying, 'Ah, I thought I'd give your country a try.' They're all seeking asylum and that automatically qualifies you — or a refugee status, or if you're 18 or younger, you qualify. So pretty much most people do qualify for food stamps, despite the denials in the — really, the Democrat side of the committee and the USDA."

"And it's not just food, either," DesJarlais said. "They can get emergency medical care, they're getting an education, especially the asylum-seekers, which again, was probably 80% — we're working on getting those exact numbers."

"We seem to be in the middle of an argument with the [Agriculture] committee, but we're going to write a farm bill next year and we need to know those things."

The congressman announced legislation he said he is working on that would "reimplement Trump's public charge act. If somebody's coming across the border, and they're going to be a public charge — in other words, taking all the things we just said — that could exclude them."

In a hearing of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations last week, DesJarlais asked Dan Giacomi, the SNAP Program Administration Manager of the Connecticut Department of Social Services, if the number of illegal immigrants on the SNAP program was being tracked.

"We do have numbers on those that are applying," Giacomi said. "If an adult comes in and is not identified as a permanent resident or in a qualifying category, they would not be eligible for assistance. So we're not necessarily tracking the number of individuals that are coming in that we're denying because of this reason."

DesJarlais called Giacomi's answer a "talking point" and listed some of the exceptions to those who are ineligible for SNAP benefits.

"So all these people do qualify for the SNAP program and, for some reason, we just want to ignore that," the congressman said. "There's gonna be a global food shortage, Americans are hungry, and we need to worry about taking care of Americans first."

Committee Chairwoman Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) gave a more full list of those exceptions, in an apparent effort to try to refute DesJarlais' argument.

"Only U.S. citizens and certain lawfully-present non-citizens may receive SNAP benefits. Non-citizens who are eligible based on their immigration status must also meet other SNAP eligibility requirements, such as income and resource limits," Hayes said.

"Some specific, very specific, non-citizen groups are eligible without a waiting period, and they include refugees, asylees, victims of trafficking, Iraq and Afghan immigrants who worked as translators, interpreters, or were employed by the U.S. government and received special immigrant visas. Other non-citizens can be considered after a waiting period if they are a legal permanent resident and has worked for ten years or of another qualifying status for five years. So the idea that undocumented immigrants who are coming over the border automatically apply for — automatically qualify for -- benefits like SNAP is just not true."