Salvation Army Checks Its List Twice–for Immigration Status

By Michelle Chen Dec 03, 2009

Note: This post has been UPDATED to reflect the Salvation Army’s new Santa screening policy: Want to know who’s naughty or nice this holiday season? According to a recent news report, the Salvation Army–that universal emblem of good will and Christian values–seemed to think that being undocumented should get you blacklisted by Santa. The Houston Chronicle reports that some local charities are restricting the spirit of giving to people with papers:

In a year when more families than ever have asked for help, several programs providing Christmas gifts for needy children require at least one member of the household to be a U.S. citizen. Others ask for proof of income or rely on churches and schools to suggest recipients. The Salvation Army and a charity affiliated with the Houston Fire Department are among those that consider immigration status, asking for birth certificates or Social Security cards for the children. The point isn’t to punish the children but to ensure that their parents are either citizens, legal immigrants or working to become legal residents, said Lorugene Young, whose Outreach Program Inc. is one of three groups that distribute toys collected by firefighters. “It’s not our desire to turn anyone down,” she said. “Those kids are not responsible if they are here illegally. It is the parents’ responsibility.”

And what better way to teach parents "responsibility" than to deprive their children of donated toys. No better way to inculcate respect for the rule of law than to make sure the holidays offer no relief from the hardships of poverty, discrimination, and police crackdowns. Some toy drive programs, the Chronicle notes, don’t require citizenship-related documentation per se, but do ask for proof of eligibility for programs like food stamps and Medicaid. Since the undocumented are typically shut out of federal aid programs year round, a few less toys this Christmas is just one extra holiday reminder of just how uncharitable this country can be. Update: the Salvation Army, in response to public outrage, has declared that it does not target immigrants in background checks for national or local charity programs. The group has since revised its policy for the toy program, reports the AP:

The Salvation Army says it will no longer ask for a parent’s social security number before giving Christmas toys to children at some local branches. Juan Alanis, a spokesman for the Salvation Army’s Houston branch, says the charity changed its policy Wednesday following a protest by Hispanic immigrants in Los Angeles. Alanis says the Christian organization never wanted to give the appearance of discrimination based on legal status and decided to not require a social security number to register for its Angel Tree program.

Nothing like a festive public shaming to bring out the spirit of giving in people. Makes you wonder if globetrotting Santa will need a visa to make his rounds this year, though. If Dancer and Prancer get detained at the border on Christmas Eve, we’ll know who to thank. Via boingboing Image: Salvation Army of Canada