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Noncitizens Are Twice as Likely to Receive Welfare, Study Finds

Sixty-three percent of households headed by these individuals reported they used at least one welfare program in 2014

President Donald Trump is right to try to curb immigrant welfare use — because noncitizens are almost twice as likely to be recipients of this largesse, according to a study just released.

Trump has made immigration a central focus of his agenda as part of his push to help domestic workers.

The Department of Homeland Security recently issued a proposal aimed at denying immigrants permanent residency if they receive benefits.

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), a conservative think tank, found that the move makes sense given how many of them get benefits.

“The desire to reduce these rates among future immigrants is the primary justification for the rule change,” CIS said in the report.

Related: Democrats on Immigration: Can They Answer Just Seven Simple Questions?

“Immigrant advocacy groups are right to worry that the high welfare use [by] noncitizens may impact the ability of some to receive green cards, though the actual impacts of the rules are unclear because they do not include all the benefits noncitizens receive on behalf of their children and many welfare programs are not included in the new rules.”

The CIS study found that 63 percent of households headed by a noncitizen reported that they used at least one welfare program in 2014.

This compared to 35 percent of households headed by a native-born individual.

The study also found that among noncitizens in the data, roughly half are in the United States illegally.

“As welfare participation varies dramatically by education level, significantly reducing future welfare use rates would require public charge rules that take into consideration education levels and resulting income and likely welfare use,” the study said.

Related: America’s Immigration System Is Not Supposed to Function ‘Like a Charity’

The study also found that noncitizen households have a much higher use of food programs at 45 percent, compared to 21 percent for natives.

There is also a greater percentage of noncitizens using Medicaid, at 50 percent versus 23 percent. Welfare use drops to 58 percent for noncitizen households and 30 percent for native households if cash payments from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are not counted as welfare.

The CIS study does note that while most new legal immigrants are barred from most welfare programs, many have still been able to receive benefits nonetheless.

This also applies to illegal immigrants.

The study notes this is because most legal immigrants have been in the country long enough to qualify; the bar does not apply to all programs; different state-level laws apply; and many individuals receive benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children.

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meet the author

Connor D. Wolf covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at [email protected].