In addition, a backlog in processing citizenship applications means immigrants can wait as much as a year to take the oath.
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua joined with Mayor Rendell Tuesday to urge Gov. Ridge to reconsider his opposition to state funding of food stamps for legal immigrants.
It would be the ``moral and just'' thing to do, they said, and it's hard to see how the governor could argue with that. Yet so far, the governor's spokesmen have offered one lame excuse after another.
First, there was ideological opposition to a state covering a federal program like food stamps. Yet, 13 states have done just that. Many of those, like Pennsylvania, have Republican governors.
Four of those - California, New York, Texas and Florida - have immigrant populations far higher than Pennsylvania's. Are they just more compassionate? At one point, the governor's office said it was hamstrung by the 1996 state welfare law, which prohibits assistance to non-citizens - but that provision was declared unenforceable by the state attorney general.
Then the governor claimed to be providing for hungry immigrants by adding $4 million to food assistance in the commonwealth. But such a program, while laudable, can't substitute for a monthly food stamp allotment for the 13,500 immigrants in Pennsylvania - 8,600 in Philadelphia - who were cut off.
On the federal level, President Clinton's budget calls for restoring the federal food stamp program for legal immigrants - but that would happen Oct. 1 at the earliest. A long time to go hungry.
The commonwealth is running a huge budget surplus, including $7 million it set aside (but didn't use) for supplements to disability payments. It just wouldn't be right to spend that surplus to lower taxes for some residents while other residents suffer hunger pangs.
For whom the cells toll Mayor Rendell's proposed city budget for the coming fiscal year is about $2.5 billion.
So the $900,000 or so that the city is expected to spend on its cellular-phone bills this year is less than a tenth of a cent out of each of those dollars.
Why, then, get upset by that figure, ferreted out by Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky?
It's the principle of the thing.
And the taxpayers' money.
Bykofsky cited examples of how the money might be better used: for an athletic field, five police cars, a trash truck, repaving, 1,600 library books.
Instead, the city has 1,248 cell phones.
Most telling was Bykofsky's revelation that some of those who are issued city cell phones also get beepers, to cut down on calls received on the cell phones, for which there's a charge.
It's hard to believe that more than 1,200 people at every level of government in the nation are so essential, much less in Philadelphia's government.
Mayor Rendell keeps saying it's important to cut the tax burden here, and he's right. Looks like he's got a prime target for budgetary scalpel work.
America held hostage: Day 1,316
As U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan stood idle, reporters questioned President Clinton about Kenneth Starr's demand that he appear before a grand jury. Complained Annan: ``I wish you would concentrate on my issues.'' Not even war can compete with Monica Lewinsky. Starr has to go.