Fox Business' Stuart Varney flirted with the idea of denying food stamps to undocumented or legal immigrants and their children, asking whether they had “a right” to access those benefits, and even suggested that immigrants were taking advantage of the benefit by falsely claiming they were starving.
During a segment discussing a recent letter from Republican donors urging House Republicans to support and pass comprehensive immigration reform, Varney veered the discussion to benefits by saying, “I'm interested in the idea that they cannot be refused any or all government services. They can't.” When Fox News senior legal analyst Andrew Napolitano explained that the Supreme Court has ruled that noncitizens should be provided the same basic social services as citizens, Varney went on to suggest that immigrants should be left to starve rather than receive the same food stamps benefits as citizens:
VARNEY: OK. So they must be served in an emergency room. Must have health services. OK, got that.
VARNEY: Must be educated. Their children must go to public school.
VARNEY: They've got every right to do that.
NAPOLITANO: Yes. Yes.
VARNEY: Food stamps. They got a right to that?
NAPOLITANO: Well, the case does not subsume -- the case does not address food stamps. But if a person were below the poverty level and starving, the federal government would have the obligation to alleviate that starvation.
VARNEY: So all you've got to do is, “I'm starving, boys. Feed me.”
Varney then brought up the Earned Income Tax Credit, which is a refundable tax credit for working individuals and families with children, asking whether immigrants who pay taxes also had a right to receive it.
In fact, undocumented immigrants are ineligible to apply for public benefits, which include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP. Legal residents are also ineligible for the program unless they meet certain requirements, including living in the country for at least five years or being a refugee.
In its November 2012 report on SNAP beneficiaries, the U.S. Department of Agriculture noted that the program's eligibility standards “restrict the participation of certain students, strikers, people who are institutionalized, fleeing felons, drug felons, unauthorized immigrants, nonimmigrant visitors to the United States, and some lawful permanent resident noncitizens.”
The report also noted that the only legal residents who are eligible for benefits must meet these requirements:
- Those who have lived legally in the United States for five years or more
- Those under age 18
- Those receiving disability benefits
- Those admitted as refugees and granted asylum or a stay of deportation
- Members of the US Armed Forces, veterans, and dependents of service members and veterans
- Those with at least 40 quarters of work history.
USDA further reported that "[s]even percent of SNAP participants were foreign-born -- 3 percent were naturalized citizens, 3 percent were legal permanent residents, and less than 1 percent were refugees."
The report did note however that "[m]ore than 8 percent of all SNAP participants were citizen children living with noncitizens" and that "[s]ome of the noncitizen household members participated in SNAP with citizen children." But the key takeaway from this finding is that the program serves American children, whose parents may or may not be in the country illegally, that do have a right to food stamp benefits.
Varney is known for attacking the government over SNAP and working families for participating in the program:
- On July 30, he brushed away the need to feed seniors -- even those in extreme poverty -- claiming that an effort by the AARP to encourage seniors struck by hardship to apply for food stamps in Pennsylvania was about buying votes.
- On July 9, he claimed that increased enrollment in a variety of food security programs -- including SNAP -- was a sign of economic failure and criticized the Obama administration for the millions of Americans who are currently receive some kind of food aid from the federal government.
- He once dismissed “the image we have of poor people as starving and living in squalor,” claiming that “many of them have things -- what they lack is the richness of spirit.”