Less than one percent of non-immigrant visa applications are denied on the grounds that the person will be a “public charge” in need of welfare, which suggests to a top Republican that the State Department is not following the law against allowing such taxpayer-dependent people to come to the United States.

“A central economic principle of American immigration is that those seeking entry into the United States must be able to care for themselves financially,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., in a statement on the State Department’s revelation that only 0.0033 percent of the applications — 208 of 8,808,031 — were denied on public charge grounds in 2011. “This is logical and necessary and common to virtually all nations. It is not good for the immigrant or for the United States to allow entry to people unlikely to thrive in America, especially when millions who would thrive await, entry legally. But the data provided leaves no doubt: this principle is no longer being applied—despite a firm and unambiguous legal requirement.”

The State Department figures align with the Department of Homeland Security revealing that it did not identify a single immigrant in 2012 as a public charge. “We are not permitted to enforce that statute, period,” Chris Crane, Crane, president of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement national union, told reporters in an interview last month.

From 2001 to 2011, the State Department only applied the public charge law against 0.02 percent of the non-immigrant visa applications. “This helps explain the results of a study showing that 36 percent of immigrant-headed households receive at least one major welfare program, adding billions to the cost of such programs,” Sessions said. “It is further proof that even the most fair and basic immigration laws of our country are being ignored. When basic principles and laws like this are ignored, it is no wonder the American people doubt any promises of future enforcement.”