The Trump administration unveiled a new rule this month that could deny visas and permanent residency to hundreds of thousands of people because they may at some point apply for public benefits. To support this move, Trump and his supporters have propagated the idea that immigrants are burdensome to public assistance programs. Here are some facts concerning immigrants and public assistance.
Fact: Immigrants actually use fewer public benefits.
This is primarily because many are ineligible to receive them. Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for welfare except in extreme cases where a person’s health is involved. Moreover, even legal immigrants cannot receive welfare for their first five years of residency.
Fact: Most immigrants are driven here by the desire to work not to receive public assistance:
More often than not immigrants are motivated to come to this country due to lack of economic opportunities in their own countries. The rest are usually fleeing from persecution – sometimes even the threat of death – the drug war, etc.
Fact: Both documented and undocumented immigrants pay more into public benefit programs than they take out.
Undocumented immigrants contribute an estimated $11.74 billion to state and local economies each year. This means that undocumented immigrants often contribute more to public assistance programs than they get from them. Moreover, their tax dollars often go to support program for which they are sometimes ineligible.
Fact: Undocumented immigrants are ineligible federal public benefit programs with few exceptions:
Mostly undocumented immigrants are ineligible to receive federal benefits. However, they may be eligible for a handful of benefits that are necessary to protect their lives and safety in dire situations such as emergency Medicaid, access to emergency rooms etc. In these cases, denying immigrants from receiving benefits could not only put them at risk, it could also endanger the health and welfare of the general public.
Fact: Immigrants are nearly 50 percent less likely to receive Social Security benefits than native-born American adults.
The net effect of this is that immigrants put much less of a strain on the Social Security system than native born citizens and indeed help support it.
In short, this effort to penalize immigrants’ use of public assistance is predicated on misconceptions about immigrants and public assistance. It is a part of this administration’s overall efforts to curtail both legal and illegal immigration to this country. Part of my responsibilities as an immigration attorney in Oxnard is to push back against this kind of misinformation. The other part is to protect the rights of every human regardless of their legal status. As an immigration attorney in Van Nuys, I can assure you that these policies will continue to be challenged by me and my colleagues.