Half of Immigrant-Led Households Collect Welfare as Admission Rules Go Unenforced

Stephen Dinan, Washington Times, May 3, 2016

Immigrants are supposed to be beneficial to the U.S.–so much so that federal law requires them to prove they won’t end up on the public dole if they are legally admitted.

But it’s a stricture honored more in the breach than in compliance, according to statistics obtained by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which found that of the millions of legal immigrants living in the U.S. and collecting welfare or other public benefits, only a single person was kicked out of the country over the last three years for becoming a public burden.

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More than half of immigrant-led households use at least one welfare program, according to research by the Center for Immigration Studies. By comparison, 30 percent of households led by native-born U.S. citizens take welfare.

Immigrants from Mexico and Central America have the highest rate, with nearly three-quarters using at least one program. The Caribbean is second, with a 51 percent use rate.

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While the law doesn’t define “public charge,” court cases and guidance the Clinton administration issued in the late 1990s has restricted when agents can pursue cases.

According to those requirements, many welfare programs don’t even count against immigrants, and even when they do, states or federal agencies must have tried to get the immigrant to repay the money, a judge has to have sided with the government’s case, and the immigrant must have refused to comply in order for a public charge case to stick. The violation also must have occurred in the first several years after an immigrant was admitted.

“Collectively, the various sources addressing the meaning of public charge suggest that an alien’s receipt of public benefits, per se, is unlikely to result in the alien being deemed removable on public charge grounds,” the Congressional Research Service concluded in a report earlier this year.

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