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SS numbers not needed for Salvation Army gifts in Houston, but how about Toledo?

Dec. 3, 2009 (AP): Families signing up their children for The Salvation Army's Angel Tree program in the Houston area will no longer have to give a Social Security number.

Some had seen the practice as a way to check immigration status, but the charity said it was a way to cut down on fraud.

``After much consideration and looking at what was being said, we realized there was so much confusion out there,'' Salvation Army spokesman Juan Alanis said Thursday. ``We didn't want to risk people who don't have legal status to be lead to believe that we are discriminating ... because it's simply not true.''

Carlos Pérez and Celeste Taylor discuss Head Start’s Juguetes Para Niños Program. Toys are needed for the needy by Dec. 16.

For at least the last two years the Christian charity has asked for a child or parent's Social Security number and that was enough to register the entire family. Staff did not ask to see a card, just for a number. It was used to check if families were going to various Salvation Army centers and registering at each one. Social Security numbers were never used to verify legal status, Alanis said.

``We don't have any means to check legal status nor are we interested in doing that,'' he said.

Typically, only non-U.S. citizens authorized to work in the country can get a Social Security number. Undocumented workers have been known to buy fraudulent Social Security numbers—made up or real—to get jobs.

If a family wasn't able to provide a Social Security number to cross check, then Salvation Army staff would not register their children for the toy drive and would refer them to another charity, Alanis said.

The new policy goes into effect next year, since the charity finished registering children for the Angel Trees on Oct. 31, Alanis said. Some 30,000 children signed up for gifts, a significant increase from the previous year.

To register for gifts, the Salvation Army does ask for identification and proof of income. It accepts consular identification cards, school records and birth certificates as forms of ID, Alanis said.

Nationally, the charity said it does not have a policy requiring the people it aids to present documents to verify U.S. citizenship.

Juguetes Para Niños en Toledo
Celeste Taylor
, Social Services Manager of EOPA’s Head Start Program in Toledo, informed La Prensa that Head Start had a Navidad/Holiday gift program for needy children where social security numbers are never requested.

“We have approximately 145 children of monolingual families who need our help. Many of our families are unable to seek assistance elsewhere because of lack of paperwork,” said Taylor.

The president of Head Start’s PTA—Carlos Pérez—agreed, and suggested that La Prensa readers donate what they can by dropping off toys, books, and other non-perishable gifts to Head Start at 525 Hamilton Ave, Toledo, by Dec. 16, 2009, c/o Celeste Taylor.

According to Taylor, “Our future goals include teaming up with other social service organizations such as Adelante, United Way, and various churches that serve large numbers of Latinos, but, as I understand it, United Way and the Salvation Army are requesting social security numbers and there is no way that these should be required for gift-giving to the needy, especially during the Christmas season.”

Preguntas? Call Celeste Taylor at: 419-255-7125 (ext. 2127).







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