Monday, September 24, 2018
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PolitiFact Florida: A ridiculous attack on Ron DeSantis about food stamps and immigrants

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has received support from President Donald Trump in his bid for Florida governor, favors giving a benefit to immigrants in the country illegally, says an article on Facebook.

"DeSantis voted in favor of food stamps for illegal immigrants," stated a March 23 headline on Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, a website that says it’s a "community founded by United States Marine Veterans to bring awareness of the lame stream media." The article drew from the Central Florida Post, a right-leaning website.

The Uncle Sam story said DeSantis’ vote on the 2014 farm bill "ultimately puts illegal aliens and criminals ahead of law-abiding American citizens in line for food stamps — a judgment President Trump would surely question."

We found that the Uncle Sam article omitted key context that immigrants in the country illegally were already banned from getting food stamps long before the 2014 farm bill, a sweeping package that only briefly mentions verifying immigration status.

The article also ignored an explanation by DeSantis about why he voted against the farm bill.

For starters, a farm bill is passed about every five years, reauthorizing food and agriculture policy including measures such as crop and commodity subsidies, conservation programs, agriculture research and food stamps, known as SNAP for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The Uncle Sam story points to an article about DeSantis’ 2014 vote as one of 63 Republicans to join 103 Democrats voting against HR 2642, the farm bill.

The legislation, which passed the House 251-166 and was signed into law by President Barack Obama, had drawn opposition from both sides: Some liberals said the cuts were too steep while some conservatives said it didn’t do enough to cut spending.

While the legislation was hundreds of pages, only a few sentences related to illegal immigrants. Section 4015 stated "a state agency shall be required to use an immigration status verification system."

That provision drew scant media attention. Some news stories mentioned in a single sentence that the farm bill banned illegal immigrants, college students, lottery winners and dead people from getting food stamps.

Another reason the immigration section may not have been a key part of the debate? Federal law already generally banned immigrants in the country illegally from getting food stamps.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 restricted access for immigrants to get food stamps. But subsequent legislation restored access for certain immigrants, including refugees and lawful permanent residents with a proven work history.

While the 2014 farm bill required states to use an immigration status verification system, most states already had procedures in place to meet that requirement.

Nune Phillips, a policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, which advocates on behalf of low-income people, said the farm bill didn’t change immigrant eligibility rules for food and nutrition assistance.

"Undocumented immigrants are not currently, and never have been, eligible for SNAP. To qualify for SNAP, applicants must be U.S. citizens or be eligible, lawfully present noncitizens," he said.

The section on immigration was not the motivation behind DeSantis’ vote against the farm bill.

He voted against the bill because of the high costs. He believed that the bill failed to overhaul a food stamp program that was growing too large, said campaign spokesman Brad Herold.

In a 2014 Facebook post, DeSantis said the farm bill was a "bad deal for taxpayers and contains little in the way of meaningful reforms," such as work requirements.

Herold said DeSantis does not believe in granting any form of benefits to immigrants in the country illegally. He has voted in favor of amendments related to work requirements for food stamps.

But the 2014 farm bill didn’t alter the pre-existing policy that illegal benefits are not eligible for SNAP benefits.

"Voting against a bill that expanded farm subsidies and failed to enact welfare reforms is not a vote to confer benefits on illegal immigrants," Herold said.

We rate this claim Pants on Fire!

Read more rulings at PolitiFact.com/florida.

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