"Illegals on Welfare": Myth

Illegal aliens don't receive welfare, unless you redefine "illegal aliens" or "welfare" .

Illegals receive welfare, says Iowa Congressman Steve King in his 12/17/3 letter which he got 35 other congressmen to sign. He never explains what he is counting as "welfare", but he lists things like public education, roads, emergency hospital care, and even jail, which have never before been defined as "welfare". Illegals do indeed drive on roads (for which they pay a tax on gasoline), receive "free" jail, public education (see "Public Education Isn't Free for ANYONE") and emergency hospital care, (see "Emergency Hospital Care Averages $21 per Illegal"). These are not "welfare" but "government services". This may seem an unimportant distinction in the heat of an immigration debate, but not making it is misleading.

Citizens are called "illegal aliens". Babies born here are U.S. Citizens, even if their parents are here illegally. But these citizens are redefined as "illegals" by the Center for Immigration Studies, whose 2004 report, (See "'The High Cost of Cheap Labor' Reviewed", is the most thorough study of the cost of Federal services to illegals compared with the taxes withheld from their paychecks.

The CIS report is a popular resource of the "Send 'em South" crowd because, by counting citizens as "illegals", it is able to conclude that "Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household." The CIS said "amnesty" would make it even worse: "...the estimated annual net fiscal deficit would increase from $2,700 per household to nearly $7,700, for a total net cost of $29 billion." (p. 5) But the CIS's own figures show that if citizens are not counted as illegals, the U.S. Treasury reaps a $9.6 billion windfall from our 12 million illegals, and legalizing them would increase the windfall to $11.4 billion. If a path to legal status included incentives to get an education, get a good job, and stay off welfare, our benefits would be greater.

The children of illegals who are born here are citizens, so illegals can apply for food stamps for their citizen children only. They can also apply for AFDC and related programs, for their citizen children. If they apply for anyone else using phony ID's, welfare offices know within a month and cut them off, and report them to the police if they get very much. If there are food stamp offices that knowingly give food stamps to unauthorized recipients, they do it in violation of federal law.

The same crowd that invokes the "rule of law", to say no one who came here illegally should ever be able to stay here legally, is against any "rule of law" that gives citizenship to anyone born here to a mother here illegally. But the laws which the "rule of law" crowd are against include the U.S. Code, the Constitution, Supreme Court rulings, and our laws since our ancestors first immigrated here. (See "Rule of Law vs. God-Defying Legalism: how "Rule of Law" was defined by America's Founders").

If you see unauthorized workers (who have no official legal right to be here such as a green card or work permit) without citizen children, receiving food stamps, AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependant Children), SSI (Supplemental Security Income), Medicaid (medical assistance for the poor administered by states), Title II Social Security (survivors of lawful Social Security recipients), or Unemployment Insurance Benefits, they are most likely "Permanently Residing Under Color of Law" (PRUCOL). (See "PRUCOL: the Legal Illegals in Immigration Limbo")

Even though illegals receive some federal services, the CIS report said Medicare, Social Security, and the IRS get "well in excess of" a $9.5 billion annual windfall from payroll taxes paid by unauthorized workers! The CIS report concludes that "illegal households create a net benefit well in excess of $7 billion dollars a year for the trust funds of...Social Security and Medicare" because "it is also clear that illegals pay substantially more in Social Security and Medicare than they use." (p. 26)

So why did I add $2.5 billion to that figure? Because most of that amount, which the CIS counts as payments for illegals, is actually, according to the CIS report, for citizens! "...it is typically only the U.S.-born children in the illegal households who are on Medicaid...." (p. 26) That's right, the report counts medical assistance for U.S.-born Citizens -- as defined by the 14th Amendment of our U.S. Constitution - as part of the cost of illegals!

There are three other Federal programs which the CIS alleges help illegals (who are not actually citizens), but the CIS report does \not specify whether it is counting illegals with PRUCOL status. CIS alleges the average illegal household receives, annually, $86 for rent subsidy, $40 for public housing, and $8 for energy assistance.

The CIS Report compares federal expenditures on illegals with federal income from illegals. Any study of the impact on any state budget would be accurate only for that state, since there is variation from state to state in the number of immigrants, and in state services which state lawmakers choose to give them. Texas has its share of illegals, and of that state, the U.S. Supreme Court says, "There is no evidence in the record suggesting that illegal entrants impose any significant burden on the State's economy. To the contrary, the available evidence suggests that illegal aliens underutilize public services, while contributing their labor to the local economy and tax money to the state. Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982)

One obvious motive which illegals have to underutilize the few public services available to them is the fear of being found and deported. If a path to citizenship for them includes points for continuing to accept no benefits, or even for paying back those previously used, they will continue benefitting us more than the cost us.

Even the CIS report acknowledges illegals are not drawn here by welfare. "Although many Americans are upset about their use of public services, there is little evidence that illegals come to America to take advantage of benefits. Most illegal aliens come for jobs, and the vast majority are in fact employed." (p. 37)

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