Part of Charlie Baker’s “Baker’s Dozen” (PDF) package of “reforms” is the following:
7. Require proof of legal residency for state benefits – Between $10M to $25M in savings
Applicants applying for state services should be required to verify their legal status in this country. It is only fair that recipients of state services should be required to prove to state agencies they are in this country legally before obtaining government benefits. Currently, there is no uniform policy that requires the state to verify the legal status for those applying for all state services including public housing, unemployment benefits, workers compensation, and welfare. Although conservative estimates were used for this purpose because the data does not exist, this new requirement could produce significant savings considering the amount of money the state spends each year on these programs.
Asked to clarify, according to State House News,
Baker said he thought people who come to the Pine Street Inn for shelter should have to show proof of residency. “I think we should require it for everything,” said Baker, a former budget chief under GOP Govs. Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci. “I mean, I don’t think it’s appropriate for people who are residents of Massachusetts to be on waiting lists when people who aren’t residents and citizens are taking advantage of services.”
Now, there is something vaguely hilarious about requiring someone seeking shelter at the Pine Street Inn to show proof of residency. Presumably, such a person is homeless and therefore has no formal “residence.” We look forward to Baker walking this one back and explaining how he didn’t actually mean that homeless people should have to prove residency.
UPDATE: And, hilariously, here’s Baker’s walkback, right on schedule. T&G today:
Mr. Patrick called a proposal to turn people away from homeless shelters if they can’t produce proof of residency “inhumane.” But Mr. Baker said that emergency services such as people showing up at a homeless shelter would be exempt from a crackdown on recipients of longer-term state services.
Funny, that doesn’t appear in the “Baker’s Dozen” document that was made publicly available, nor is it consistent with what he said yesterday when he was asked basically the same question point-blank. Here’s the amusing view of one commentator on the T&G website:
Baker just flip-flopped on his proposal to ban homeless people without ID from checking in to shelters!!! One day and he flip-flops!
Here’s the Gov on this proposal:
Baker’s proposal to require homeless shelters to turn away people, including veterans and even families with children, if they can’t produce proof a residency is inhumane and wrong…. I understand fully the importance of enforcing existing rules so that only people entitled to benefits actually receive them. But government ought to reflect our highest values. And government that would turn a homeless child out into a cold night or deny a poor person a meal because they could not find a utility bill is not the kind of government that reflects the values of Massachusetts.
The point about “enforcing existing rules so that only people entitled to benefits actually receive them” is an interesting one. Recently, there’s been a fair bit of chatter over Republican state rep. and congressional candidate Jeff Perry’s proposal to require verification of immigration status before receiving certain state benefits. The proposal failed (technically, it was sent to a study) by a fairly close 75-82 vote, with some progressives crossing over to support it (D’Amico, Ehrlich and Patrick are the ones who jumped out at me, and there may be more). Clearly, there is bipartisan support for a measure like this one. I haven’t studied the details of Perry’s proposal, but I certainly wouldn’t dismiss it out of hand.
But what’s fairly clear is that it carves out some common-sense exceptions that, apparently, Baker would reject. Here’s part of Perry’s proposal:
Verification of lawful presences in the United States shall not be required:
For any purpose for which lawful presence in the United States is not required by law, ordinance, or rule;
For obtaining health care items and services that are necessary for the treatment of an emergency medical condition of the person involved and are not related to an organ transplant procedure;
For short-term, non-cash, in-kind emergency disaster relief;
For public health assistance for immunization with respect to diseases and for testing and treatment of symptoms of communicable diseases;
For programs, services, or assistance, such as soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter specified by Federal laws or regulations that:
- Deliver in-kind services at the community level, including services through public or private nonprofit agencies;
- Do not condition the provision of assistance, the amount of assistance provided, or the cost of assistance provided on the individual recipient’s income or resources; and
- Are necessary for the protection of life or safety or;
For parental care.
Are these exemptions enough to make it a good bill? I don’t know – apparently, plenty of State House Democrats thought so. But regardless, they seem to be way beyond what Baker was willing even to consider, since he told State House News, “I think we should require it for everything.”
I don’t think that many people seriously advocate making state benefits routinely available to people not present in the U.S. legally. But the devil is in the details in these things. Perry, to his credit, has made some effort to recognize that, and he was almost rewarded for doing so by getting his proposal through an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature. Baker, to his discredit, doesn’t seem interested in that; rather, his interest seems to be Limbaugh-esque talking points about “illegals.” Great.