APRIL 25, 1949
HYDE PARK, Sunday—Hidden away in the Deficiency Appropriations Bill, HR 2632, reported out on March 22 by the Senate Appropriations Committee, is a provision which excludes the Indians in the states of Arizona and New Mexico from Social Security benefit payments. This seems to me an extraordinary action.
It establishes the principle of discrimination in social security, but is done in a very complicated way so that it is difficult to detect. The significant passage appears at the end of the last sentence of the committee's explanation, which says: "In striking out the House proviso and increasing the appropriations for the Navajo and Hopi service in the amount of $400,000 and the appropriation, 'Welfare of Indians,' in the amount of $150,000, the committee does so with the understanding that the program of welfare assistance in the states of Arizona and New Mexico is to be carried on as in the past and that rates of assistance are not to be increased."
In the past, Indians have been excluded by these two states, Arizona and New Mexico, from the Social Security rolls. The Social Security Administration made this clear recently by filing charges against these two states. Now, however, some of the United States Senators have decided to establish this discrimination and write it into Federal law. Those last words, freeing the "rates of assistance," would mean that even though other people living nearby might have their rates increased, the Indians would not be allowed to benefit.
One wonders, in a bill of this kind, whether all of the senators knew exactly what they were doing, or whether those who were interested put it over on their colleagues!
Certain legislation has been pending in Congress for 12 years in matters affecting this Indian situation, and all that Congress ever does is to reintroduce the legislation at every session and let it die. The committee is not honest enough, however, to say that it is putting through a basic change in the Social Security law as part of an appropriation bill. It has heretofore been forbidden by law to have racial discrimination in the Social Security law.
The President and the Bureau of the Budget recommended an appropriation of $385,000 under the heading of "Welfare of Indians," knowing that there were special emergency needs on the Indian reservations. Occasionally in the past, such emergency appropriations have been used for other than the purposes intended, and so the Budget Bureau proposed a special proviso to prevent this diversion of funds. This was done because in the states of Arizona and New Mexico these emergency appropriations were used to set up a special social security system under the Indian bureau.
The House accepted this, but the Senate appropriation now tries to delete this proviso. If it is deleted, no Indian in New Mexico or Arizona will be eligible for old age assistance, aid to the blind or aid to dependent children.
Why is it we cannot seem to treat the first citizens of this country with decency and justice? It makes one ashamed.