Too Appropriate to Make Up
Periodically, one comes across coincidences that are so appropriately rife with subtext that only a heavy-handed author would layer them in a fictional story. Putting aside the RI-welfare-state practice in question, there’s an example of reality’s too-obvious plot line in Elizabeth Gudrais’s Projo piece, “R.I. is ripe for welfare abuse, critics say“:
Last spring during General Assembly hearings on bills aimed at thwarting illegal immigration, some lawmakers asked whether the state was doing enough to limit social-service programs to people who are legally eligible for them.
The lawmakers’ questions focused on the practice of entering a standard code number — 666 — into the state computer system when someone seeking benefits such as welfare or childcare assistance can’t provide a valid Social Security number, generally available only to U.S. citizens and those with legal immigration status. …
Compared with other states, Rhode Island’s numbers are easy to track because all programs use the same code number. Back in the late 1980s, the developers of the computer system used by the social-services programs chose 666 because they needed a number that was not in use by the federal government as a prefix for Social Security numbers. Edward P. Sneesby, who was a policy officer with DHS at the time and is now the department’s associate director for program operations, says there were “only a handful of options” and that other states used the same number.
Taking our Social Security numbers as a form of identification, from the government’s perspective, how appropriate that those drawn under the government’s wing with no SSN identity of their own would be branded with 666! Woonsocket’s Rep. Jon Brien (a Democrat, incidentally)…
… finds it hard to believe that the law is being enforced without exception. “There exist actual guidebooks that are given to illegal aliens, once they get here, by social organizations in this state, telling them how to go about getting State of Rhode Island benefits,” he says.
“We’re talking about people who have just arrived here illegally, children in tow.”
What are the odds, I wonder, that the person to call for copies of the guidebooks would be Lucy Devlin (or some such), at extension 13? Perhaps when she hands one to you, she’ll say, “All these benefits the state of Rhode Island will give to you.”