By Mark Waite
TONOPAH — Nye County Commissioner Dan Schinhofen dove headlong into the deep end of the immigration debate again Tuesday, asking county staff to draw up policies to verify the citizenship of people applying for benefits.
The suggestion came up during a routine approval of an agreement with the Nevada Housing Division to provide rental assistance, help with utility payments and security deposits to eligible clients.
Schinhofen said he emailed Shirley Trummell, director of the Nye County Department of Health and Human Services asking if the county could check citizenship on this program or others.
“She pointed out to me the ones where the state says we can’t ask, but there are four or five that we could, but our county policy doesn’t have it in there to do it. So I’d like to ask staff to bring back a revision of those policies to see if the board has any appetite to add that onto those that we can ask for,” Schinhofen said.
Trummell said there’s no specific guideline for a citizenship requirement in the welfare set aside grant approved Tuesday, as well as the Community Service Block Grant for help with things like food and dental costs, along with the Susan G. Komen program giving help to breast cancer victims. But she said, “if the BOCC wishes me to include proof of citizenship or legal residency within the U.S. I can do so.”
Currently, Nye County Health and Human Services asks for identification for everyone in the household, which usually includes a driver’s license, Social Security card or birth certificate. She said most clients submit the first two, which in theory belong only to legal citizens.
“It is a rare occasion that we have ever had clients with birth certificates from outside the United States that didn’t also have a resident alien card,” Trummell said.
But Trummell said she could put in place a policy that requires identification to include a current Nevada driver’s license, Nevada ID, Social Security card, alien resident card, a passport and birth certificate proving birth in the U.S.
The Ryan White Grant for helping people with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome AIDS and the senior nutrition grants have procedures that prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services from excluding anyone, even undocumented individuals, Trummell said.
Schinhofen told the Pahrump Valley Times he doesn’t know if illegal immigrants are applying for and receiving benefits in Nye County.
“We don’t know because we don’t ask,” Schinhofen said. “I hear from a lot of citizens about how illegal immigrants are using these services and the county doesn’t do anything about it.”
“They’re taking it away from people who have a legal right to be here,” he said.
Under the agreement approved Tuesday with the Nevada Housing Division, households using the program may not have gross incomes that exceed 60 percent of the area median income, 15 percent of the households served must be at the poverty level.
The NHD requires quarterly reports showing the clients served, a breakdown on their race and ethnicity, name of the client or head of household, the household income, people in each household, type of assistance and other information.
In March, Schinhofen balked at applying for a $32,400 State Fund for a Healthy Nevada grant that would fund a food bank and provide a monthly grocery voucher to low income and disabled adults at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“It does not specify you have to be a citizen to receive these benefits,” Schinhofen said at the time. He also objected to the county funding a food bank when there are others in existence.
Schinhofen didn’t complain as loudly as Nye County Assessor Shirley Matson, who wrote a series of emails complaining about dark-skinned workers on the new county jail project, assuming they were illegal aliens. Matson added a lot of derogatory language about Hispanics in her various diatribes later exposed.