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Social Policy IMMIGRANTS BENEFITS CONTINUE TO BE STICKING POINT IN HOUSE WELFARE DEBATE Efforts to restore aid to legal immigrants cut in 1996 have polarized members of Congress despite political benefits Republicans are sending an update of welfare law to the House floor that promises a modest increase in federal child care funding a small olive branch to Democrats opposed to increasing poor parents work hours without such additional help Senate Democrats at the same time are moving toward common ground with the House COP by signaling their support for some increased work requirements But as the 107th Congress continues to debate altering the six-year-old welfare statute PL 104-193 -- the core of which expires Sept 30 -- the issue of restoring welfare benefits for legal immigrants remains the greatest source of polarization between the majorities on the two sides of the Capitol The pressure to revive those benefits comes from state officials influential senators and Hispanic voters a bloc that is being intensely courted for the midterm election But it has not been enough to budge House conservatives They say the current law discourages welfare dependency among immigrants and ensures that new arrivals sponsors will take responsibility for their care Opponents of the law who argue that working immigrants unfairly pay taxes that finance federal help for which they do not qualify appear destined to see the policy and political tide turn in their favor even administration officials are apparently softening The question is whether President Bushs base of support among Republicans is willing to yield on such a politically sensitive issue before exacting a large political price Make no mistake about it we will remember who helps us and who doesnt said Manuel Mirabal president of the National Puerto Rican Coalition one of the groups seeking to lessen the laws restrictions on legal immigrants The 1996 law replaced a guaranteed welfare check with new work
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