Illegal immigration, statistics, and the Welfare State

Discussion in 'Political Discussion' started by Real World, May 25, 2007.

  1. Real World

    Real World Moderator Staff Member

    Aug 15, 2006
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    +1,135 / 7 / -3

    I'm not sure why I'm bothering with statistics and facts, but what the heck eh? :cool:

    Over the last 40 years, immigration into the United States has surged. Our nation is now expe*riencing a second “great migration” similar to the great waves of immigrants that transformed Amer*ica in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 2004, an estimated 35.7 million foreign-born per*sons lived in the U.S. While in 1970 one person in twenty was foreign born, by 2004 the number had risen to one in eight.


    Welfare may be defined as means-tested aid pro*grams: these programs provide cash, non-cash, and social service assistance that is limited to low-income households. The major means-tested pro*grams include Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, public housing, the earned income credit, and Medicaid. Historically, recent immigrants were less likely to receive welfare than native-born Americans. But over the last thirty years, this historic pattern has reversed. As the rel*ative education levels of immigrants fell, their ten*dency to receive welfare benefits increased. By the late 1990s immigrant households were fifty percent more likely to receive means-tested aid than native-born households.[15] Moreover, immigrants appear to assimilate into welfare use. The longer immi*grants live in the U.S., the more likely they are to use welfare.[16]

    A large part, but not all, of immigrants’ higher welfare use is explained by their low education lev*els. Welfare use also varies by immigrants’ national origin. For example, in the late 1990s, 5.6 percent of immigrants from India received means-tested benefits; among Mexican immigrants the figure was 34.1 percent; and for immigrants from the Domin*ican Republic the figure was 54.9 percent.[17] Ethnic differences in the propensity to receive welfare that appear among first-generation immigrants persist strongly in the second generation.[18] The relatively high use of welfare among Mexicans has significant implications for current proposals to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants.



    The potential welfare costs of low-skill immigra*tion and amnesty for current illegal immigrants can be assessed by looking at the welfare utiliza*tion rates for current low-skill immigrants. As Chart 3 shows, immigrants without a high school degree (both lawful and unlawful) are two-and-a-half times more likely to use welfare than native-born individuals.[24] This underscores the high potential welfare costs of giving amnesty to illegal immigrants.


    The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 granted amnesty to 2.7 million ille*gal aliens. The primary purpose of the act was to decrease the number of illegal immigrants by limit*ing their inflow and by legalizing the status of ille*gal immigrants already here.[63] In fact, the act did nothing to stem the tide of illegal entry. The num*ber of illegal aliens entering the country increased fivefold from around 140,000 per year in the 1980s to 700,000 per year today.

    Illegal entries increased dramatically shortly after IRCA went into effect. It seems plausible that the prospect of future amnesty and citizenship served as a magnet to draw even more illegal immi*grants into the country. After all, if the nation granted amnesty once why wouldn’t it do so again?

    S. 2611 would repeat IRCA on a much larger scale. This time, nine to ten million illegal immi*grants would be granted amnesty. As with IRCA, the bill promises to reduce future illegal entry but contains little policy that would actually accom*plish this. The granting of amnesty to 10 million illegal immigrants is likely to serve as a magnet pulling even greater numbers of aliens into the country in the future.

    If enacted, the legislation would spur further increases in the future flow of low-skill migrants. This in turn would increase poverty in America, enlarge the welfare state, and increase social and political tensions.

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