The following editorial appeared in the Times Herald-Record (Middletown, New York), a fellow GateHouse Media publication. Guest editorials do not necessarily represent the views of Messenger Post Media.

 

It’s enough to make you weep, or it should be.

In addition to being separated from their families and held in cages, the children in custody at our southern border are suffering from what those who have visited say is a dangerous lack of nutritious food, sometimes a lack of much food at all.

Not content with treating these youngsters that way, now the Trump administration is preparing to extend such deprivation to millions who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP and even more commonly known as Food Stamps.

The Department of Agriculture has proposed a regulation to tighten eligibility for the program, a move that would remove more than 3 million from the 40 million now served. Those who have analyzed the proposal calculate that 7.4 percent of households with children would lose access to Food Stamps and it would eliminate 500,000 children from automatically qualifying for free school lunches.

On top of that, the administration is trying to take away the residency of immigrants who use such public assistance programs and block entry by those who might use them.

When the Trump administration has tried such tactics in the past, New York and some other states have stepped in to provide funding so that families and children are not left without food. New York is getting ready to do that again.

But not all states are inclined to help, believing the Agriculture Department’s claim, one as old as the program itself, that millions who receive such benefits either do not qualify or are committing fraud.

Report after report, study after study, has shown the opposite. In 1993, the government estimated that 4 cents out of every dollar should not have been spent, a figure that declined to 1 cent on the dollar by 2006. Another government report found that the rate had increased to 3.5 cents per dollar in 2012 but had declined to 1.5 cents by 2017. If the rest of the government operated this efficiently, the annual deficit would be much lower. But it is no wonder that Trump and his administration choose to ignore that perspective and its own facts to pursue this anti-family crusade. It gives them another chance to inflame the base by telling lies.

Nineteen members of the U.S. Senate, led by Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and 120 members of the House, including Sean Patrick Maloney of Cold Spring, are fighting back.

“At a time when 40 percent of families can’t afford a $400 emergency and 13 million children live in poverty, this is an immoral and obscene decision,” they said in a letter.

Many of those on the list are also seeking the Democratic nomination for president and they did not shy away from making a larger point, one that shows how this effort to cut Food Stamps and take food away from poor families is a symptom of other wrongs that need to be publicized and corrected.

“In a nation where the three wealthiest people own more wealth than the bottom half, increasing the barriers for hungry families is unconscionable,” the Democrats wrote.

No Republicans signed the letter.