Immigrant families get welfare on top of jobs
Pocket more than legal foreign-born
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.