Brouillette column: Duffy shouldn't blame immigrants for homelessness
This is the response Congressman Sean Duffy kept at bay during the House Financial Services Committee meeting in mid-February.
It begins with the Congressman's email message to constituents on the topic of homelessness. In it, the Congressman seems to blame homelessness — and the existence of homeless veterans — on illegal immigration. Say, what?
Mr. Duffy asks a question he doesn't really want to hear an answer to: "So why should we prioritize people who don't come here lawfully ahead of our veterans?"
The answer, Mr. Duffy, is, we don't.
Homeless veterans are as old a fact of life as war itself. Fortunately, when a homeless vet turns up at a VA system, within a day she or he will given a housing voucher, either for a HUD apartment or a hotel, if income eligible. Veterans, along with any other citizen, can apply for food stamps. And every veteran who has an honorable discharge, whether she served for six months or 20 years, receives lifetime medical benefits from the VA, almost exclusively free of charge.
Even veterans who are discharged "less than honorable" receive free mental health services.
Also, the VA system's budget is funded two years out, so government shutdowns don't affect services.
This is as it should be, but Congressman Duffy is either not aware of the benefits our VA provides or he's twisting the issues of homelessness and immigration in ways intended to excite emotion, but not capable of withstanding scrutiny.
In his email, Mr. Duffy provides a link to a video of himself, which he also posts on his Facebook page for maximum exposure. In the video, he presents no evidence to support his diatribe that our government prioritizes spending on illegal immigration over homelessness. (Unless, of course, spending money on anything, including a $5 billion wall, means we are prioritizing it).
Apparently, to support his proposition that illegal immigration promotes American homelessness, Mr. Duffy also links his audience to an article on Fox News. The article is about county spending in Los Angeles for food stamps and welfare benefits to families who have at least one U.S. citizen or legal resident in the household. That same 2017 article which Duffy cites quotes a top California Republican Shawn Steel as saying: "The amazing thing is that everyone was expecting a big wall to stop (illegal immigration)," he said. "The decrease has been enhanced dramatically by ICE agents just doing their job."
Thank you for that insight, Mr. Duffy. But don't you stand for the opposite of that?
Mr. Duffy, please don't blame immigrants, illegal or not, for homelessness or poverty levels in the U.S. unless you have the evidence. Homelessness in Wisconsin and our 7th Congressional District has nothing to do with anything you pointed to in your email.
More shamefully, congressman, the article where you directed your constituents highlights a false innuendo that fuels anger and leads to racism: that an illegal immigrant can enter the country and begin receiving welfare.
That is not true. Only families with at least one U.S. citizen or other legal status receive food stamps or welfare benefits if they prove financial need. And none of that money is taken from veterans' benefits.
With the kind of rhetoric bouncing around in your head as is demonstrated in your email and its links, Mr. Duffy, it's no wonder the Congress you've been a part of since 2011 can't pass into law meaningful immigration reform.
Lisa Brouillette, of Florence, Wisconsin, has been licensed to practice law since 1989 in Michigan and since 1994 in Wisconsin. She serves on the Wisconsin State Bar's District 16 Investigative Committee of the Office of Lawyer Regulation.