Are Immigrants Abusing Welfare – Fact or Myth?

Do we have a problem with immigrants abusing welfare?

Elephant Cafe Con Leche LetterheadOne of nativists’ favorite claims is that mass immigration of unskilled, undereducated immigrants from third world nations leads to immigrants abusing welfare. Nativists also claim the offspring of such poor uneducated immigrants will become a permanent underclass and vote Democrat to keep ‘free stuff’ coming.

Nativists are notorious for using biased statistics to promote myths about immigrants, to push their immigration restriction agenda, so we need to examine this closely! 100 years ago Nativists were making the same claims about Southern and Eastern immigrants, the “new” immigrants of the era. The Dillingham Commission Report “Immigrants as Charity Seekers” goes to great length to convince the public that immigrants come to get handouts. Not much has changed today except that the racial overtones have been suppressed since Americans generally won’t listen to bigots.

The website Statistic Brain, using statistics from US Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Commerce, and the CATO Institute, reports on welfare demographics:

Immigrant welfare abuse

Welfare Demographics

The U.S. census reports that in 2010 Hispanics were 16% of the population, versus 15.7% of welfare recipients who are Hispanic. Other racial groups are whites, 74.8%, blacks, 13.6%, and Asians 4.8% of the population. However, this is only part of the picture, as welfare is needs tested and based on income and assets, and some demographic groups are wealthier on average than others. (Kaiser Family Foundation) provides the following poverty line demographics.

Immigrant Welfare Abuse

Poverty Rate by Race and Ethnicity

Whites have a poverty rate of 13%, while 38.8% of welfare recipients are white. Blacks have a poverty rate of 35%, and 39.8% of welfare recipients are black. Hispanics have a poverty rate of 33%, yet just 15.7% of welfare recipients are Hispanic. (note: “other” defined as “Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, Aleutians, Eskimos and persons of “Two or More Races”. Children of mixed Hispanic/non-Hispanic marriages are usually classified as Hispanic.)

When pressed and confronted with facts, Nativists no doubt will claim only immigrants themselves are hard working and stay off of welfare, while their offspring soon fall victim of the welfare client state, but is this true? This chart from a research paper shows that children born of Hispanic immigrants do indeed assimilate in every important category. Comparing 1980 immigrants to their children in 2005, high school completion rates (HS+) soared from less than 40% to 85%, and not much less than native born whites. Rates for college education (BA+) and high occupation, also rose at the same rates as for native born whites. In the “above poverty” and “homeowner” categories, Hispanics rose to nearly equal their native born white counterparts.

Comparison of first and second generation immigrants

Hispanic Immigrant Assimilation

An August 2012 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that 57% of eligible U.S. Citizens applied for Medicaid, as compared to only 30% of eligible immigrants.

The large majority of Hispanics are either immigrants themselves, or 1-2 generations removed from immigrants. It is obvious the claims of immigrants abusing welfare is yet another myth designed to support more immigration restriction!

Debunking FAIR’s Fiscal Impact Report claims of immigrants abusing welfare

The Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform is one of many organizations founded by population control liberal and environmentalist John Tanton. Tanton also founded or co-founded NumbersUSA, the Center for Immigration Studies, and numerous other groups. Tanton’s organizations all call for strict immigration enforcement and drastic cuts in legal immigration to 1956 levels after a ten year timeout of no immigration.

FAIR published the report “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers“, which has been widely quoted by Nativists as if it’s the gospel on immigration. FAIR’s report repeats the constant drumbeat of immigrants abusing welfare and claims the net cost of illegal immigration exceeds benefits by $113 billion annually.

Alex Nowrasteh of the Competitive Enterprise Institute analyzed FAIR’s study and thoroughly debunks it in his report “A FAIR Criticism.” The most glaring flaw in FAIR’s study is including the cost of educating the U.S. born children of unauthorized immigrants as a cost, then completely excluding the taxes they will pay over their lifetimes after finishing their education! FAIR also makes the baseless claim that unauthorized immigrants don’t pay taxes when in fact most do.

Immigrant Welfare Eligibility

A common myth from the Nativist lobby is that immigrants come to the U.S. to receive ‘free stuff’ and the incessant claims of immigrants abusing welfare greatly angers many taxpayers. Nativist groups clearly mislead taxpayers into believing they pay taxes to support immigrants so they will oppose immigration.

However, since 1996 legal immigrants have been barred from most federally funded welfare programs until they have five years of residency, and family-based immigrants required a sponsor willing to sign a contract agreeing to reimburse government for any welfare benefits received for up to ten years. Unauthorized immigrants were barred from welfare rolls long before 1996.

Colorado’s Brush with Nativism

Despite the 1996 federal law, in 2006 Colorado Governor Bill Owens reacted to shrill rhetoric from Nativists and called a special session of the legislature to pass immigration bills.

The Nativist group Defend Colorado Now claimed unauthorized immigrants were costing Colorado over $1 billion per year. Colorado passed the strictest illegal immigration laws in the nation (as of 2006), and then spent millions auditing welfare rolls and failed to find a single unauthorized immigrant receiving benefits! At least six other states have conducted similar audits and also failed to find a problem. Colorado Nativist Congressman Tom Tancredo even introduced a bill for a moratorium on all immigration!

The Center for New Community reports the largest contributor to Defend Colorado Now was U.S. Inc., a foundation controlled by John Tanton. Not surprisingly, in 2008 FAIR claimed the cost of illegal immigration to Colorado taxpayers was $1.1 billion, and FAIR’s latest report pegs the cost at $1.451 Billion. Yet Colorado had just spent millions looking for unauthorized immigrants collecting welfare and failed to find any!


Bob Quasius is the founder and president of Cafe Con Leche Republicans

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Discuss: “Are Immigrants Abusing Welfare – Fact or Myth?”

  1. December 28, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    While I agree with you, Bob Quasius, that Hispanics are not abusing Welfare and other Social Service Programs within these great United States of American – I do find your Opening Paragraph for your above article – both interesting and ironic !!!!

    Here’s the Opening Paragraph – “One of nativists’ favorite claims is that mass immigration of unskilled, undereducated immigrants from third world nations leads to immigrants abusing welfare. Nativists also claim the offspring of such poor uneducated immigrants will become a permanent underclass and vote Democrat to keep ‘free stuff’ coming.” – end of quote.

    I do believe, Bob, that Ol’ Mitt Romney – accused the Democrats and President Obama – of “giving free stuff” – just to get the vote !!!

    SO, Bob – Are you saying that Ol’ Mitt Romney – IS a Nativist ???

    Just askin’

    Robert Allen

    Posted by boba123
    • December 29, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      Mitt Romney is not a Nativist, and he wasn’t referring specifically to immigrants with his remark about the 47% of Americans who don’t pay taxes.

      His comment about “self-deportation” was given in a tone that no doubt alienated many Hispanics. However, if you think about it, Obama’s forced deportations, which often rip apart mixed-status families, is worse than self-deportation. Mitt Romney didn’t help himself with Kris Kobach as an adviser either. Republicans should keep the Nativist crowd at arm’s length. As expected, Obama hung Kobach around Mitt Romney’s neck during the general election.

      Posted by bquasius
      • December 29, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

        ANOTHER fascinating comment, Bob Quasius!!! Here’s what David Leopold of the Huffington Post had to say ’bout Ol’ Kris Koback on 9/21/12- start of quote –
        ” “Tell me what company you keep and I’ll tell you what you are” (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra – author of Don Quixote).

        Mitt Romney’s company certainly tells us who he is.

        This week both he and President Obama went before Hispanic voters in a forum sponsored by Univision. Not surprisingly, the topic of immigration came up. The President answered questions about his failure to enact immigration reform during his first term and Romney was asked whether he would cancel the deferral of deportation for DREAM Act eligible youth. The President candidly pointed to immigration as the biggest failure of his first term, a tacit admission of his inability to fulfill a campaign promise he made in 2008 to Hispanic voters. Romney, on the other hand, dodged, ducked and evaded direct answers, particularly about what he’ll do about the Deferred Action process put in place earlier this year which grants a temporary deportation reprieve to DREAM Act eligible youth. Nor did he offer specifics about how he’d go about fixing the broken immigration system which threatens American families, stifles American business, and hurts American global economic competitiveness.

        Romney also failed to explain why, during the early Republican primaries, he sought political refuge in the dark corner of the anti-immigrant fringe by embracing the likes of Kris Kobach, a radical anti-immigrant lawyer and Kansas Secretary of State. Kobach became an “informal advisor” to the Romney campaign and his influence has been obvious. Romney endorsed “self-deportation,” a draconian policy proposal (and a Kobach idea) that would effectively target immigrant families, particularly Latino families, by making their lives so unbearable that they flee the U.S. Yet when it came to building a safe, orderly and fair immigration system designed to keep America’s borders secure, keep American families safe and together, and meet the needs of American business Romney’s message was — and remains — woefully devoid of substance.

        Richard Nixon famously taught Republicans to play to the far right in the primaries and steer back to the center in the general election. And when it comes to immigration, that’s exactly what Romney’s been doing since the GOP convention, perhaps heeding the words of Nixon or, more likely, because he’s trailing President Obama by double digits among likely Latino voters. Of course, the problem for Romney is that in the digital age, we have all of his debate performances and policy positions from the primary available to remind us what he said before. So to avoid being labeled as a flip-flopper, instead of changing his policies to move toward the center he’s just trying to change his message. For example, in a recent speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the GOP candidate predictably attempted to strike a more moderate tone on immigration. “I will work with Republicans and Democrats to permanently fix our immigration system” Romney said. “I believe we can all agree that what we need are fair and enforceable immigration laws that will stem the flow of illegal immigration, while strengthening legal immigration.”

        Yet it’s difficult to take Romney at his word given his connection to Kobach, who runs around the country drafting mean-spirited anti-immigrant laws. During the Republican convention Romney allowed Kobach to sully the platform with language endorsing “self-deportation” and opposing any pathway to lawful compliance for undocumented immigrants. Running a presidential campaign that is offensive to Latino voters is certainly Romney’s prerogative; after all, he’s the Republican nominee. But voters are entitled to answers about his alliance with Kris Kobach.

        Kobach’s extremism is hardly limited to immigration. The Kansas City Star reported recently about a half-cocked attempt by a “birther” to challenge President Obama’s U.S. citizenship and knock him off the state ballot. Yet rather than do what he could to maintain the integrity of the Kansas elections process — as his is solemn duty as Secretary of State — Kobach went out of his way to give credibility to the ridiculous complaint, going so far to suggest that an evidentiary hearing before the Kansas State Objections Board was in order. Not surprisingly, the complaint was withdrawn.

        Kobach has shown himself to be nothing more than an ambitious politician with a dangerous and radical vision of America. Yet as voters consider who will lead the country for the next four years, they are entitled to know why Romney continues to associate with him and his extremist nativist agenda.” – end of quote.

        AND, Bob Quasius – remember what Luiz Alvarado said in his thread – reprinted by the Cafe Con Leche Republicans within this Blog Space – and MY comment on Luiz’s comment – start of quote –
        “Although an interesting thread, Luiz Alvarado, I believe that the FIRST Republican Civil War – started with the election of Honest Abe Lincoln – in 1860 !!!! And NEVER FORGET – that there were a LOT of Republican Abolitionists – taking on the ISSUE of Slavery – in this FIRST Republican Civil War

        So, Luiz Alvaradom the thrust of your thread – would deal with the SECOND, at BEST, Republican Civil War !!!! Actually, Luiz, what you write about is MORE of an issue of FRATRICIDE – WITHIN – the Republican Party !!!!! Fratricide – at least AGAINST the very folk that the Republicans CLAIM to want within their Political Party !!!!!!

        But, Luiz Alvarado, this Republican FRATRICIDE War – is LARGELY a WAR – of Republicans against Republicans – and it CAN’T be an issue of Republicans WINNING this FRATRICIDE War – because the MAIN COMBATANTS – are ALL Republicans !!!!

        So, Luiz Alvarado, the questions of HOW and WHAT and WHY of this Republican FRATRICIDE War is All about – and rests, as you indicate – 100% with the Republicans !!!!

        I believe, Luiz Alvarado, that the infamous Alabama HB 56 law – the “Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act” – was written by the Republican Secretary of State – for KANSAS – and sponsored by the Tea Party endorsed Micky Hannon – Alabama representative – and Republican Scott Beason – and – PASSED by the MAJORITY Republican Alabama House – and – Majority Republican Alabama Senate – AND – Signed into LAW – by Republican Governor of Alabama, Robert Bently !!!!!

        LOOK at the NAME of that act, Luiz Alvarado – the “Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act” !!!!!! IT’S an act – PROTECTING TAX PAYERS – and and act PROTECTING CITIZENS – TWO CORE Republican ISSUES !!!!

        AND LOOK, Luiz Alvarado, at Arizona SB 1070 !!!!! AGAIN – this BILL PASSED by a Republican State Assembly – AND – a Republican State Senate – AND – signed into LAW – by – A Republican Governor !!!!!!

        ONE would START TO THINK – that REPUBLICANS – JUST DON’T LIKE HISPANICS – all that much !!!!!!

        I’m actually surprissed – that Romney – got ANY Hispanic Votes – with a REPUBLICAN RECORD like that !!!!!!!

        So, Luiz Alvarado – you got it wrong when you say – “Only then will the Republican infrastructures begin to build bridges that will bring Latinos and other minority communities closer to Republican causes.”

        What you SHOULD be saying, Luiz – IS – ONLY WHEN the Republican infrastructures begin to build bridges – to people – ALL of the people – will the Republicans be able to STOP this FRATRICIDAL WAR – within its own ranks !!!!!!

        Just sayin’ !!!!!!” – end of quote.

        Look at my comment, Bob Quasius – and see – the Secretart of State of Kansas – Ol’ Kris Koback – IS the guy – who WROTE – the infamous Alabama HB 56 law – the “Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act” – PASSED by the Republican House – AND the Republican Senate – AND signed by a Republican Governor – for the State of Alabama !!!!

        ALSO, Bob Quasius – Please NOTICE to OPENNING QUOTE – on the Huffington Post article – WRITTEN by – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra – author of Don Quixote !!!!!

        So, Bob – Ol’ Kris Koback IS BIGGER – than JUST his association with Ol’ Mitt Romney !!!!!

        Just sayin’

        Robert Allen

        Posted by boba123
  2. December 28, 2012 at 10:26 pm #

    ALSO – I believe that MOST Nativists – want immagrants to GO BACK TO from where they came. SO – Wouldn’t Mitt Romney’s appeal – for SELF DEPORTATION – clearly fall within this Nativist orientation ????

    Just askin’,

    Robert Allen

    Posted by boba123

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