Im­mi­grant fam­i­lies get wel­fare on top of jobs

Pocket more than le­gal for­eign-born

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

Im­mi­grant fam­i­lies who take wel­fare end up col­lect­ing more than $12,000 a year in ben­e­fits, and that is de­spite hold­ing down one or two jobs, the Cen­ter for Im­mi­gra­tion Stud­ies said in a re­port be­ing re­leased Mon­day.

Most of the as­sis­tance comes in the form of Med­i­caid, but fam­i­lies where an im­mi­grant — le­gal or il­le­gal — is the head of the house­hold also take thou­sands in food or cash as­sis­tance too.

Still, it’s less than the av­er­age na­tive­born fam­ily on wel­fare, which col­lected an av­er­age of nearly $15,000 in 2012, the cen­ter said, us­ing Cen­sus Bureau data to cal­cu­late its find­ings. But be­cause more than 50 per­cent of im­mi­grant-led house­holds are on wel­fare, com­pared to just 30 per­cent of na­tive born-headed fam­i­lies, on the whole, the govern­ment ends up pay­ing 41 per­cent more for the av­er­age im­mi­grant’s fam­ily: $6,234 to $4,431.

Il­le­gal im­mi­grants aren’t el­i­gi­ble for some wel­fare pro­grams, but their U.S.born chil­dren are, and the av­er­age home headed by an unau­tho­rized im­mi­grant still ac­counts for al­most as much wel­fare use as those who are in the coun­try legally, the cen­ter found.

“Im­mi­grant house­holds use more wel­fare than na­tive house­holds, and that sug­gests that im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy is not tuned in a way that ben­e­fits na­tives as much as it could,” said Ja­son Rich­wine, an in­de­pen­dent an­a­lyst who wrote the re­port for the cen­ter.

Wel­fare use among im­mi­grants is con­tro­ver­sial and, at least in gen­eral terms, it is sup­posed to be il­le­gal. From the time of the first gen­eral im­mi­gra­tion law in the U.S., the govern­ment has in­sisted that im­mi­grants not be­come a “public charge.”

Those who ap­pear likely to end up on the dole can be de­nied en­try, and those al­ready here who do end up tak­ing mas­sive govern­ment as­sis­tance can be de­ported for it — though The Wash­ing­ton Times re­ported last week that it hardly ever hap­pens.

Num­bers ob­tained by the Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Im­mi­gra­tion Re­form found the govern­ment could point to only a sin­gle per­son who was deemed a public charge from 2013 to 2015.

Part of the dif­fi­culty in mak­ing a “public charge” case is that the law never de­fines ex­actly what lines must be crossed to be deemed a bur­den on the state. Judges, and later the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion, filled in the gap, set­ting ex­ceed­ingly high stric­tures: Only aid from a cash as­sis­tance pro­gram counts against an im­mi­grant, a govern­ment agency must have or­dered the im­mi­gra­tion to pay it back, and he or she must have been judged to have re­fused. In re­al­ity, agen­cies rarely pur­sue those cases.

The new re­port says wel­fare use is high even among im­mi­grant-led house­holds where peo­ple hold jobs.

Mr. Rich­wine said that un­der­cuts the usual pic­ture of hard-work­ing im­mi­grants who take two or three jobs, con­tribut­ing to the econ­omy while tak­ing lit­tle back. In­stead, even many hard-work­ing im­mi­grant fam­i­lies col­lect thou­sands of dol­lars in wel­fare ben­e­fits each year, par­tic­u­larly in food as­sis­tance and Med­i­caid health cov­er­age.

The rea­sons are sim­ple, Mr. Rich­wine said: Im­mi­grant-led fam­i­lies have more chil­dren, and the im­mi­grants them­selves usu­ally come with lower ed­u­ca­tion lev­els and end up tak­ing low-wage jobs, and they end up qual­i­fy­ing for as­sis­tance.

“Put more sim­ply, wel­fare and lowwage work go to­gether. Just as na­tives with low lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion and large num­bers of chil­dren are apt to con­sume wel­fare, im­mi­grants with those same char­ac­ter­is­tics are also likely to be on wel­fare. A strong work ethic does not change this re­al­ity,” he wrote in the re­port.

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