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The top two Republicans running for governor in Florida, Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis, tried to paint a picture that the other was weak on immigration issues during a nationally televised debate on Fox News June 28, 2018.
Moderator Bret Baier of Fox News asked Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner, to respond to a DeSantis’ attack ad calling him "Amnesty Adam."
Putnam shot back, "That’s rich for somebody who voted in an agricultural bill to give food stamps to illegal immigrants."
Off-screen, DeSantis, a Florida congressman who has been endorsed by President Donald Trump, responded, "That’s not true, you know that, come on."
So, is that true?
The bill in question is a 2014 agricultural bill, H.R. 2642. Farm bills are passed about every five years, reauthorizing food and agriculture policy including measures such as crop and commodity subsidies, conservation programs, agriculture research and food assistance benefits, known as SNAP for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The bill mentioned illegal immigrants briefly, in Section 4015, to mandate that states would be "required to use an immigration status verification system" when distributing food assistance benefits.
DeSantis voted against the bill, which passed 251-166. He also voted against a predecessor of the bill which failed to pass through the House, but had a similar provision against immigrants in the country illegally obtaining food assistance benefits.
Putnam and his supporters frequently cite these votes as evidence that DeSantis was in favor of extending SNAP to people in the country illegally.
The thinking goes that by voting against the farm bill in total, DeSantis voted against a provision that sought to verify that food assistance benefits only went to U.S. citizens.
As a result, Putnam and his supporters claim, DeSantis supported distributing food assistance benefits without a citizenship test. And therefore, he supported distributing food assistance benefits to people in the country illegally.
In April, seven radio stations have pulled a radio ad from the National Liberty Federation making the same claim as Putnam made during the Fox News debate, according to the DeSantis campaign.
Even if H.R. 2642 had been voted down, SNAP regulations already in place prohibited people living in the United States illegally from receiving benefits.
Nune Phillips, a policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy, told PolitiFact in March 2018, "Undocumented immigrants are not currently, and never have been, eligible for SNAP. To qualify for SNAP, applicants must be U.S. citizens or be eligible, lawfully-present noncitizens."
After the vote in 2014, DeSantis wrote a Facebook post clarifying his reasoning: he voted against the bill because of the high cost and low return. The bill, he wrote, is a "bad deal for taxpayers and contains little in the way of meaningful reforms."
Specifically, he was concerned that the bill did not do enough to cut back the rising cost of food stamp program—a far cry from wanting to expand it to include illegal immigrants.
When asked about the claim, Putnam campaign spokesperson Meredith Beatrice directed us toward DeSantis’s voting record on the 2014 bill and its predecessor, as well as a link to this similarly misleading Central Florida Post article.
Putnam claimed DeSantis "voted in an agricultural bill to give food stamps to illegal immigrants." DeSantis actually voted against the bill, and explained later it had nothing to do with provisions related to immigration.
Putnam has cast the vote against the farm bill as somehow allowing people living in the country illegally to receive food assistance benefits.
But the practice was prohibited before the 2014 vote, and it remained prohibited after the 2014 vote.
We rate this claim Pants on Fire!
Email interview, Meredith Beatrice, Putnam campaign spokesperson, June 29, 2018
Email interview, David Vasquez, Ron DeSantis campaign spokesperson, June 29, 2018
PolitiFact, "A ridiculous attack on Ron DeSantis about food stamps and immigrants," March 29, 2018
USDA Food and Nutrition Service, "SNAP Policy on Non-Citizen Eligibility," March 24, 2017
Congress, "H.R. 2642 - Agricultural Act of 2014," Accessed June 29, 2018
Congress, "H.R. 1947 - Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013," Accessed June 29, 2018
Central Florida Post, "DeSantis Supported Food Stamps For Illegal Immigrants," March 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Times, "Ron DeSantis campaign gets attacks ads pulled after citing PolitiFact in cease and desist letter," April 23, 2018
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