Both immigrants and illegal aliens are more likely to be poor and to use welfare programs than native-born Americans because they come to the country with lower levels of education, according to a new study looking at U.S. Census Bureau data.
“The problem here is not work, or a lack of willingness to work; it’s not legal status; it’s educational level at arrival,” said Steven A. Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, which is releasing the report today.
Mr. Camarota, whose group calls for a crackdown on illegal aliens and a slowdown in legal immigration, said his numbers show that the family-based system puts a strain on taxpayer-funded services.
“Allowing in legal immigrants mainly based on family relationships, and tolerating widespread illegal immigration, certainly has very significant implications for social services, public schools and taxpayer services,” he said.
“You’re not going to fix the problem of high rates of welfare use just by legalizing them—at least for the 57 percent of high school dropouts,” Mr. Camarota said.
Nearly one in three immigrant households nationwide uses a major welfare program, compared with 19.4 percent of native-born American families.
But Angela Kelley, director of the Immigration Law Foundation, said the report didn’t capture the true American experience of immigration.
“Immigrants come to this country; they work hard; if they can get legal status, that improves their chances, they buy homes, they learn English, they intermarry—and it’s been the success story of this nation,” she said.
The report says overall immigration to the U.S. remains high, with immigrants now accounting for one in eight U.S. residents—the highest level in 80 years. Since 2000, 10.3 million immigrants have arrived, which is the highest seven-year total in U.S. history.
The study also found immigrants and illegal aliens account for 32 percent of those without health insurance nationwide and for 24 percent of those in or near poverty.
[Editor’s Note: “Immigrants in the United States, 2007: A Profile of America’s Foreign-Born Population,” by Steven A. Camarota, November 2007 can be read here.]