Valley reacts to drug testing for food stamp recipients proposal

Texas State Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville)

Drug testing in several states will now be mandatory for people getting government assistance and could be denied to those whose urine samples reveal drug use.

Texas considered a similar legislation earlier this year but it wasn't approved.

State Representative Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) says the proposal might be re-introduced.

It's a tough thing to do, said Rene Oliveria. We certainly want to discourage people from becoming alcoholics and drug users, at the same time I don't want to see innocent children punished who basically need nutritional food.

Although Oliveira says there are some pros to the legislation, he adds this proposal is discriminatory and reinforces stereotypes about the poor.

"Yes there are those who abuse it, said Oliveira. But the vast majority are good people who are just trying to survive.

Three dozen states have proposed drug testing of applicants for benefits such as welfare but Oliveria says there are some constitutional issues at hand.

You've got people on social security, people on unemployment, people on all kinds of government pension programs, said Oliveria. Do all them have to start taking a drug and alcohol test?

Supporters of the move say the policies ensure tax dollars aren't simply paying for drug abuse.

There's a lot of ways they can use that money for something else, said one Rio Grande Valley resident.

People take advantage of government help and a lot of them use the food stamps and sell them and they get money to buy drugs said one Brownsville woman.

Another man agreed.

If you're going to be on government assistance you should be trying to find a job, staying away from drugs," he said.

Rene Oliveira says the vast majority of welfare recipients are children.

He says policy makers need to strike a balance between extending assistance to those in need, and ensuring that this assistance is not financing illicit and dangerous habits.