Proposal to drug test welfare recipients targets minorities


Of the many planks in the Texas GOP platform that outrage people, the proposal to require recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to submit to drug tests is actually pretty reasonable. If such a law were implemented in Texas as it has been in other states, it would be the only way the government would be assured that tax dollars are not being spent to buy illegal substances. But why stop at welfare recipients? Why not require all recipients of government aid to submit to drug tests? The list would include students receiving financial aid, the elderly who receive Social Security and even veterans! But no one expects Grandma or a decorated war hero to engage in illegal activity. Requiring welfare recipients to submit to drug tests is just another method of stigmatization and criminalization of minorities.

Because most welfare recipients are low-income (obviously) minorities, the plank assumes that the demographic is more likely to engage in drug use. However, when such a law was implemented in other states, it did not yield any substantial results. When welfare recipients were tested in Arizona, the government saved just under $600 as a result of discontinuing aid from one person. In other states, such as Florida, expenditures on drug testing surpassed the amount the state hoped to save from cutting off aid to drug users tremendously.

Any argument that suggests a drug test requirement would save the state a significant amount of money is flawed, because the facts just don’t support it. Clearly, the GOP plank works directly to further oppress and marginalize people of color. Applying this requirement to only welfare recipients is just another not-so-sneaky way of institutionalizing racism without explicitly targeting specific groups.

Davis is an associate editor.