Tea Party freshman Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) has had a less-than-productive first year in Congress. He finally introduced his first bill last week — a proposal to defund legal services for the poor. It couldn’t have taken much effort: the bill, H.R. 2774, is only one sentence long and calls for the complete repeal of the Legal Services Corporation Act.
Yet, while Scott’s one-sentence bill would end the government practice, “dating to the Nixon administration, of providing legal assistance to low-income people pursuing equal justice under the law,” there does appear to be one group that will benefit from it:
This one sentence says a great deal about Scott, because it is a transparent attempt by the young lawmaker to defend a company in his district that discriminates against U.S. citizens in favor of Mexican migrant workers.
Scott introduced the bill abolishing Legal Services exactly three days after it became public that Legal Services had won a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission determination that Georgia’s Hamilton Growers “engages in a pattern or practice of regularly denying work hours and assigning less favorable assignments to U.S. workers, in favor of H2-A guestworkers.” Hamilton also “engages in a pattern or practice of discharging U.S. workers and replacing them with H-2A guestworkers,” the EEOC determined.
Ironically (or rather, hypocritically), Scott defeated a moderate Democratic incumbent in 2010 by running a tough-on-immigration message. According to his hometown paper, “He said that jobs here was the biggest draw for illegal aliens coming into the country and that making it more difficult to obtain them would curb the influx of illegal aliens.”
The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank observes that given his past anti-immigrant stance, “you’d think Scott would have sided with the 17 U.S. citizens in Georgia who claimed Hamilton Growers illegally dumped them in favor of Mexican workers on H-2A visas.”
For decades, low-income Americans use government legal services for a range of important actions, like women seeking restraining orders against abusive partners, and homeowners fighting foreclosure or predatory lending. Yet the congressman questioned whether these services were “absolutely necessary” and suggested poor Americans simply rely on private charity programs so we can get this “duplicative and unnecessary program off the federal taxpayers’ dole.”
Ultimately, Scott’s bill amounts to siding with “a large employer of foreign migrants in his district — against his out-of-work constituents.”