OCTOBER 13, 2006
The United States Department of Agriculture is spending taxpayer money to run Spanish-language television ads encouraging illegal immigrants to apply for government-financed food stamps.
The federal agency, which claims to provide leadership on food, agriculture and natural resources based on sound public policy, is working to promote its food stamp program in the Latino communities with a costly series of ads on the nation’s largest Spanish-language network, Los Angeles-based Univision.
A few years ago the Department of Agriculture’s Division of Food and Nutrition Service made a deal with the Mexican Embassy to jointly distribute informative brochures and create public service announcement informing Mexican migrants of the free food program for the poor.
Mexican Consul Luis Miguel Ortiz Haro even starred in some of the U.S. Government-financed television commercials, which explain the program and provide a phone number to apply. In the widely viewed commercial, Ortiz Haro assures that receiving food stamps “won’t affect your immigration status.”
Indeed, food stamp recipients do not have to prove immigration status as per Department of Agriculture guidelines. In fact, they say that states distributing the assistance must comply with the provision of the federal Privacy Act which says states are prohibited from denying an individual any right, benefit or privilege because of an individual’s refusal to disclose his or her social security number.
With these assurances from their own government official as well as U.S. authorities, it’s no surprise that the number of food stamp recipients has risen dramatically in the areas covered by the promotional U.S.-Mexico campaign. One Southern California county alone reported hundreds of calls when the commercials first aired. Many others are sure to follow.
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