Wednesday, November 06, 2013
The Diplomad tells us about the ways that American "public assistance" is sent overseas. This is just part of the story.
US public assistance money going to foreign recipients is, however, not a new development. As a young consular officer in Guyana in the late 1970s, I had my own encounter with this phenomenon. One hot, muggy day (are there any other kind in Guyana?) while on the visa counter, I received an application for a tourist visa from a very nice elderly lady. She had prior visas, and normally we would not have interviewed somebody like her, and just issued the visa, but I was struck by the reason she gave for her trip to New York. According to her application and to her accompanying adult daughter, she needed to go there for post surgery care.Seeing that the applicant had no significant resources, I asked how this medical care was to be funded. The daughter smiled and pulled out a thick wad of papers, mostly letters and receipts. She said, "The City of New York wants her to come for the appointment." She did not lie. She handed me a letter from the NYC Department of Social Services addressed to her mother at her mother's Guyana address, reminding the elderly lady that she needed to return to NY for an appointment so that the doctors' could evaluate whether the surgery they had performed on her--at public expense--had worked. I asked the daughter, "Where does your mother live?" The answer, "In Guyana." Young and naive, I could not understand, "Why is the City of New York paying for her surgery and post-op care?" The daughter seemed taken aback by the stupidity of my question, "They send her money every month." She gave me receipts showing that for several years the mother had been receiving public assistance checks sent to her Guyana address; she would send the checks back to NY for deposit in a bank there. Mom, apparently, on a trip years ago had applied for and gotten public assistance from the City, eventually returned to Guyana, and continued to receive the funds. Livid, I turned down the visa application, made copies of all the documents, and wrote an angry letter to the relevant NYC agencies.The next day, before I had posted my indignant letter to NY alerting them to this fraud--this was before internet--I got calls from the staff of a well-known NYC Congressman and another from some drone in the NYC welfare bureaucracy. Both callers were very upset with my refusal to issue the visa, accusing me of racism, being anti-poor, etc., and let me know that my superiors at State would be notified about my attitude. I kept blurting out, "But . . . she's living in Guyana and getting American taxpayer assistance . . ." as though that would trigger some logical thought sequence in my favor. All to no avail. I was the reincarnation of Eichmann. This went on for weeks, letters, calls, new visits from the mother and daughter, pleas from her doctor in NY, etc. The State visa wonks contacted me, took my story, and truth be told, never tried to change my decision, supporting my refusal to issue on the grounds of what then was called 212 (A) (15), likely to become a public charge.
Read the whole thing and the comments. It opens up w whole new world of corruption.
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