Archived Story

Immigration, welfare tied together

Published 5:33pm Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A lot has been said over the past few weeks about illegal immigration.

Most of the comments that have appeared in the paper have supported Alabama’s efforts to crack down on the problem. In fact, I think it’s reasonable to assume that a majority of our readers want to see our government (both state and federal) act aggressively and severely limit the seemingly endless flow of illegal aliens entering our country.

Supporters of these immigrants seem to think those who oppose their presence in our land are heartless, callous and uncaring people who want to throw these people to the wolves. In fact, some have gone so far as to cast doubt on whether supporters of aggressive action are acting in a Christian manner, thereby indirectly casting a shadow on the seriousness of their religious beliefs.

Well, I consider myself a supporter of aggressive action, but I also believe that people should be treated in a humane way, no matter their legal status.  Churches and other non-profit organizations should be able to help needy immigrant families without fear of violating state or federal law.

What’s more, over the years I have developed a healthy amount of respect for these folks. I know that most of them have taken incredible risks entering this country in order to obtain a better life. I can’t blame them for wanting to escape poverty and drug-related violence by finding work here in America in order to support themselves and their families.

When I think about these reasons for crossing the border, I can’t help but feel sympathy for their predicament. Wanting to work and take care of your loved ones is a noble aim, one worthy of high praise, which is more than I can say for the multitude of American citizens who apparently are refusing to work certain types of jobs.

If you’ve been keeping track of the debate, you might have heard some experts claim that many of the lowest wage jobs in Alabama, like agricultural jobs, will go unfilled during the summer if we continue to enforce aggressive immigration laws. Unemployed citizens, they argue, are simply not going to leave the house in June, July and August to go work in the hot sun.

In my opinion, the fact illegal immigrants are willing to take these hard labor jobs is a testament to their work ethic. But, it’s also an example of both laziness and bad government when unemployed citizens refuse to work because they would rather sit at home and remain on the dole, especially since government money makes it more lucrative for them to do so.

In fact, I think government welfare and the refusal to work specific jobs is the real problem underlying illegal immigration. We have a need for immigrant labor only because our federal government pays American citizens to sit at home. The real villain in this debacle is not foreign, but domestic.

I’m willing to support an amnesty law for all illegal immigrants who are gainfully employed and are willing to become US citizens, just as long as our government passes a companion law that denies aid to welfare recipients who are capable of working, but refuse to do so.

I want our government to assert control over our borders and process immigrants into our country in a manageable, humane and legal way. However, this will never happen unless our government gets serious about reforming the welfare system. The two issues are irrevocably tied together.

Roger Steele is general manager and advertising director of The Outlook.

  • hushhhh

    This is a narrow view and based on a bad interpretation of facts. For a person making minimum wage, many resources will still be available once they have a job – including food stamps, etc. In Philadelphia, where I live and work, the maximum amount of cash assistance that a single individual can get per month is $205. For a family of 6, it is $687. This is nowhere near equal to what even the lowest wage job would pay.

    You assume a lot when you write about people who “. . . would rather sit at home and remain on the dole.” I doubt you would appreciate anyone lumping you into a large group of people and assuming certain things about you just because you fit a certain demographic. I have worked with welfare recipients for the last dozen years, and I’ve meet a suprisingly low number who do not want to work. However, if things in Alex City are anything like in the Northeast – there are considerably more people seeking entry level jobs than there are those types of jobs. A person receiving cash assistance (it hasn’t been called welfare in years) is also required to do a minimum of 20 hours of “core activity” to even remain eligible. These activities include:

    1. Unsubsidized employment
    2. Subsidized private sector employment
    3. Subsidized public sector employment
    4. Job search and job readiness (limited to not more than 6 weeks in a federal fiscal year with not more than 4 weeks consecutive).
    5. Community service
    6. Work experience
    7. On-the-job training
    8. Vocational educational training (limited to 12 months for an individual), and
    9. Caring for a child of a recipient in community service
    Supplemental Activities

    And, the lifetime limit for receiving cash is 60 months. Lifetime.

    There’s more to these folks stories than what you indicate in your few, yet broad words about them. I’d challenge you to do a series of articles about folks in your city receiving cash assistance. Hear their stories, follow them for a few days, put a face on your generalizations – and, just as you speak (rightly so) of compassion and respect for illegal aliens, you’ll find a new respect for these so-called deadbeats.

    There are bad apples in every “group”, including newspaper editors, but you’d be surprised what you’ll find when you take the time to dig a little deeper. For a newspaper editor, it’s your responsibility to do so. As you’ve proven, they don’t have a voice themselves.

  • bubbasel

    In response to hushhhh:
    Playing word games but missing the point simply confuses the issue. No matter what you call it, taking money from the tax payers without earning it is wrong. Mr. Steele is correct in his premise that there is a dramatically increasing population in both the state and in our country who are receiving financial support for no effort on their part. Some of this is in the form of the “cash assistance” you noted. This takes the form of food stamp equivalents(debit cards), rental assistance, other forms of housing subsidies, discounted or forgiveness for utilities, free or heavily subsidized medical care, free cell phones with free “minutes” of usage time, and numerous other give-aways.
    Unemployment benefits are a necessary evil in our world, but go way too far to encourage citizens to “take a break” rather than seriously look for jobs.
    The final and perhaps greatest tragedy is perhaps the scam of the new century in the form of disability awards to almost anyone who uses the services of the hoard of disability lawyers in this state who are paid out of the tax coffers, not the disability applicants. “Where’s my check?” is plastered on huge billboards scattered along Hwy 280 advertise the services of one of these tax subsidized scoundrels. The unfortunate reality is that there are people who deserve and technically qualify for disability who can’t get it, when there are people who have never worked a day in their lives, many of whom are children as young as one year or less who do get awarded disability. These payments come out of the social security funds and are one reason that the fund has been whittled down to the point of concern.
    I agree with Mr. Steele, we have it all wrong in this country now. Honest pay for honest work is fair and right. Stealing money through gaming the system rather than working for a living should be a crime and definitely is morally corrupt.

  • hushhhh

    Bubbasel certainly brings up some areas where reform is needed, but misses the point on most everything else.

    Last year, approximately $59 billion was spent on traditional social welfare programs in the US, vs. $92 billion spent on corporate welfare in the form of subsidies, etc.

    Federal subsidies allowed CEO’s like G. Allen Andreas of Archer Daniels Midland to take home around $14 million in compensation last year.

    Social welfare programs have made a difference. Since TANF was enacted under the Clinton administration, reforming the welfare system, caseloads have been cut in half and the child poverty rate fell from 20.8% to 16.3%.

    The Cato Institute reports that in 2002, approx. 5% of the federal budget was for corporate welfare. Corporate welfare being money paid to companies without any goods or services coming back in return (this sounds much like your definition of the people you speak of taking tax money without earning it). According to, this doesn’t even take into account agencies such as Halliburton, because they are not “corporate welfare” recipients because they DO provide goods and services for their no-bid contract. Never mind the fact that the Pentagon’s Defense Contract Audit Agency found $1.4 billion of overcharges and fraud in Halliburton’s work.

    Farm subsidies, that make up 40% of corporate welfare monies spent by our government, go to help those poor, struggling farmers, right? Not really. The largest 7% of corporate farming operations receive 45% of that money. The process here is opposite of the social welfare system. In social welfare, the poorer you are, the more assistance you receive. In farm subsidy welfare, the more assets and cash you have, the more subsidies you receive.

    Good Jobs First shows that 244 Wal Mart’s have received approximately $1 billion in subsidies.

    Take away all help from the poorest of our country – and, I can guarantee you, it’ll cost you more in different ways down the line.

  • bubbasel

    In response to Hussssh
    I agree that the “corporate wellfare” is inappropriate, but that is not an argument for the work ethic degradation in our country that I commented on in a previous response. OK, let’s stop all “corporate welfare”, but let’s also stop the parasitic drain of my hard earned money by those people whose culture promotes avoidance of work, gaming the social welfare system, and participation in drug use and sales and in criminal activity of all sorts. I am all in favor of decreasing the size and costs of government. I work for my living and have done so since I was a teen. I am proud for the opportunity to work, but I feel that many times in my life, I made those opportunities happen. Work doesn’t just knock on your door and present itself as a given. You must see work as necessary and go looking for it in many areas. Also, better work and more financially rewarding work requires initiative and education. By education I mean learning skills and functional knowledge, not just a paper degree from one of our taxpayer subsidized inferior educational institutions. I am distressed that the social welfare system discourages many people from taking that initiative and financial need to go forth to find work. Many people are now not looking for work because the welfare system provides so many of their wants(not necessarily needs)that they see no need in legal and legitimate employment.
    In the past week, there have been 2 reports–One says that the wealth of the average Working person in America has decreased by 40% in the past 3 1/2 years. The other says that during the same time the average wealth of the Unemployed person in America has increased by over 200%.
    So I still say “honest pay for honest work” is the only way for our country to save itself from the spiral of destruction we are experiencing.