* The United States is a country founded on principles and ideals. Two of the most important are that this is a nation of laws, and that all persons legally here are equal before the law. It violates these principles that any class of persons legally here should effectively be treated as second-class residents by being singled out for exclusion from programs that are available to everyone else ("Senate Approves Welfare Reform," July 24).
Instead, if there are changes needed in our immigration policies--and there surely are--then let's change them. We ought to stop illegal immigration, put more emphasis on education and work skills in legal immigration and fully compensate California for the disproportionate share our state takes of total U.S. immigration. (Indeed, California will be severely penalized by the pending welfare bill if it excludes legal immigrants.)
If we don't like current legal immigration, let's change it, but once someone is here legally, they have a right to be treated equally. If we don't like welfare, then let's change it as well, but for everyone, equally.
* My parents are native-born U.S. citizens and have paid taxes all their lives. I am a citizen and have paid taxes all my life. My father is dead and my mother is in a nursing home. But before she qualifies for federal assistance, she first has to sign over to the nursing home the contents of her meager bank account, her small home, where she lived for more than 50 years, and even her life insurance policy.
If my mother had lived in another country, owned a house there and had a bank account there, I could sponsor her into the U.S. and, with the system the way it is now, she would instantly qualify for any and all medical benefits.
Why should a foreigner, albeit a legal immigrant, be able to come into this country and be entitled to free medical treatment and nursing home care when my mother, who was born here and lived here her entire taxpaying life, has to first become a pauper to qualify for any assistance?
ANNIE CAROLINE SCHULER
* Unlike what the right wing would have us believe, welfare does not cause poverty. But a truly compassionate welfare program can do exactly what it should: help raise persons out of poverty and reduce the suffering of its victims.
The irony of such a vote signaling "every man for himself" is not lost on us: The majority of persons affected by this bill are children, women and the elderly.
Interfaith Hunger Coalition