There has much debate in recent months about immigration reform and possible solutions. However, there has also been a lot of “misinformation” about immigrants. Today I continue to address some of the “misinformation” and “myths” about immigrants that we sometimes hear. This information below comes from the Indiana Catholic Conference report on immigration.
PERCEIVED MYTH: Immigrants come here to take welfare.
KNOWN FACT: Immigrants come to work and reunite with family members. Immigrant labor force participation is consistently higher than native-born, and immigrant workers make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force (12.4%) than they do the U.S. population (11.5%). (Source: Census)
Many Americans fear that immigrants disproportionately use welfare programs or public benefits. Some believe that immigrants are eligible for special benefits that Americans cannot receive. The fact is that unauthorized immigrants are not eligible for most public benefits and do not use them surreptitiously. Legal immigrants are also restricted from receiving many benefits. Immigrants pay taxes to fund welfare programs, but are not eligible to reap the benefits of many of them.
Aren’t immigrants taking advantage of social services and costing taxpayers?
Immigrants come to work and to reunite with their family. Most immigrants, except for children, are employed. Because most work, albeit many in lower paying jobs, the ratio between immigrant use of public benefits to amount of taxes they pay is favorable. In one estimate Immigrants pay about $90 billion in taxes and use about $5 billion in public benefits. Others estimate that immigrant taxes total $20 – $30 billion more than cost of government services.
The reason for this is that undocumented immigrants are ineligible for the vast majority of state and federal benefits and are only eligible for those that are considered important to public health and safety.
The few public benefits that undocumented immigrants may receive include emergency Medicaid, nutritional assistance to women, infants and children under the WIC program and school lunches and breakfasts. Eligibility for these few programs and services is designed to provide emergency medical care, to reduce the risk that innocent children will be punished or hurt as a result of their parents’ immigration status, and to serve the fiscal and long-term interests of all Americans. Even legal permanent resident immigrants are functionally ineligible for most government programs. They are prohibited from receiving most cash assistance during their first three years in the country and are subject to deportation if they become a public charge within five years of entry.
Fr. Tom Jones, C.S.C., Administrator