Members of the Obama administration have met with Mexican government officials approximately 30 times to discuss the promotion of government nutrition assistance programs (such as food stamps) “among Mexican Americans, Mexican nationals and migrant communities in America,” according to a new report from The Daily Caller’s Caroline May.
The number of meetings was disclosed by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) who inquired into the feds little-known promotional program back in July.
“The Mexico-U.S. Partnership for Nutrition Assistance Initiative is just one of a wide range of USDA partnership activities intended to promote awareness of nutrition assistance among those who need benefits and meet all program requirements under current law,” Vilsack wrote to Sen. Sessions in a letter obtained by TheDC.
This would make it roughly 151 times since the nutritional assistance partnership was started under President George W. Bush that U.S. officials have met with representatives from Mexico’s government “to discuss nutrition assistance programs as well as to provide program updates.”
“Those instances included 91 meetings with embassy and consulate staff in 25 U.S. cities; 29 health fairs in 19 U.S. cities; and 31 roundtable discussions, conferences and forums in 20 U.S. cities,” May notes. “Roughly 30 of these meetings and activities occurred under the Obama administration.”
According to Vilsack’s letter, this number may or may not be entirely accurate as a few of the meetings “may not have been recorded.” The agriculture secretary also maintains that the USDA isn’t looking to “boost its rolls” or pressure anyone into enrolling.
In response to the agriculture secretary’s letter, the Senate Budget Committee Republican staff under Ranking Member Sen. Sessions on Monday released the following graph:
Of course, this seems at odds with the “outreach” portion of the USDA’s website which flatly states that its purpose is to “increase participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [i.e. food stamps]”.
“[W]e are determined to help people in need make informed decisions about whether or not to seek assistance for which they may be eligible,” the letter adds.
Legal non-citizen participation in SNAP has jumped 190 percent from 2001 to 2010, from 425,000 to 1.23 million legal non-citizen participants, according to figures revealed in the letter.
“That number rose 77 percent since the program’s inception in 2004, when it served 693,000 non-citizen participants,” May notes.
“USDA did not offer data for 2011 and 2012, but a Republican Budget Committee staffer told TheDC that based on the growth rate, the number of legal non-citizens participating in the food stamp program today is about 1.63 million. That’s more than double the number of legal non-citizens who participated in 2008,” she adds.
Vilisack’s letter was also careful to note that illegal immigrants are barred from participation in SNAP.
“I share the goal stated in your letter,” Vilsack’s letter said in reference to Sen. Session’s July inquiry, “which is to help people move toward gainful employment and financial independence.”
“At the same time, the Nation’s nutrition assistance programs have never been needed more to help struggling families until they get back on their feet. I hope that this information clarifies our efforts and my views on these vital program,” the letter concludes.
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Front page photo source courtesy the AP.