Several charities in the Houston area are checking the immigration status of needy families before giving out toys this holiday season. The charities claim that given the jump in demand this year — over 30,000 children have registered with the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, an increase of over 20 percent from last year — they want to be “good stewards” and get the donations to people who are in the country legally. From the Houston Chronicle:
In a year when more families than ever have asked for help, several programs providing Christmas gifts for needy children require at least one member of the household to be a U.S. citizen. Others ask for proof of income or rely on churches and schools to suggest recipients.
The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are among those that consider immigration status, asking for birth certificates or Social Security cards for the children. […]
The Outreach Program requires parents to show photo identification and birth certificates or Social Security cards for the children. [The Outreach Program’s Lorugene] Young said she makes an exception if parents can show they have applied for legal status or that a child is enrolled in school.
Matt Yglesias writes, “Meanwhile grant that it’s ‘the parents’ responsibility’ that the family may be in the United States without legal permission. Suppose the parents had committed a crime that’s even more serious than moving across an international boundary without permission in order to do work in exchange for money (hard to imagine a more serious offense, I know). What if they’d, I dunno, broken into people’s homes and stolen jewelry and now they’re in jail. Is the Salvation Army going to say that their kids shouldn’t have toys to play with? What sense does that make?”
,The Houston Chronicle is now reporting that the charities will not be using immigration status to deny gifts to the children of undocumented immigrants. The charities explained that while they do request identification, it is only to prevent fraud and if parents could not provide such identification, they would not be turned away.