As New Immigrants Struggle, DHS Eyes ‘Public Charge’ Reform



Recent rosy reports touting the educational attainment of new U.S. immigrants ignore a harder fact: The latest arrivals are more dependent on welfare programs.

An analysis of new Census Bureau data finds that while more immigrants come with college degrees, for a variety of economic and public policy reasons the road to self-sufficiency can be a long one:

  • In 2007, 6 percent of new immigrants were on Medicaid; by 2017 it was 17 percent.
  • Food stamp use in new immigrant households increased from 4 percent to 13 percent during the period.
  • The share of new immigrants in the labor force (working or looking for work) fell from 73 percent in 2007 to 67 percent 2017.
  • 2017 incomes are slightly lower and poverty rates are slightly higher than they were in 2007.

The data suggest that post-secondary diplomas don’t ensure upward mobility, at least not right away. Lower incomes and heavier reliance on welfare indicate that it’s taking more time for newly arrived immigrants to gain a firm foothold in the U.S. economy.

Looking ahead, the Annie E. Casey Foundation reported that children of immigrants are struggling, too. Proficiency tests in reading and math show them lagging at the most basic skill levels.

One of the prized immigrant cohorts – young recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – shows a similarly downbeat profile. According to congressional testimony:

  • 71 percent live in government-subsidized housing.
  • One in five are projected to end up on food stamps.
  • One in seven will be on Medicaid.

As FAIR put it: “Excessive immigration, which diminishes assimilation, adversely burdens schools, degrades learning opportunities for other students and is a financial burden on the communities in which they reside.”

What is to be done? The Trump administration is pursuing one long-overdue reform.

The Department of Homeland Security wants to tighten rules governing immigrants as “public charges” and ensure that “aliens are self-sufficient.”

The proposal would restrict immigrants’ access to noncash government benefits, as well as cash disbursements. Affected programs include Medicaid, Food Stamps, Child Health Insurance Program and the widely abused Earned Income Tax Credit.

State Department refusals of immigrant visas on “public charge” grounds have fallen sharply since the 1990s. Given immigrants’ increasing reliance on welfare programs, common sense dictates a return to stricter visa vetting.

Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, concluded that large-scale immigration and a welfare state are both incompatible and unsustainable. It’s time to put the brakes on the immigrant gravy train, for everyone’s benefit.

About Author

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Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

12 Comments

  1. avatar

    They get all the benefits that are for the US citizens, funds are running out as they have so many children that we working Us citizens cant afford to to have that many kids but they do as they get foods stamps , it upsets me that I have to go to the grocery store with a small budget and a list and I see the with their carts full , its not right, I’m a middle income hard worker and never had any public assistance and these people get everything insane that I have to pay for their food when I cant hardly afford mine, I blame the government I would come too if I was illegal, come to the US have 5 or more kids and you get everything why work.

  2. avatar

    The Open Border Party Loves to Attack Social Security

    They allege that although we pay far more into Social Security in a lifetime than we legal American citizens take out….we need more immigration to afford it? How about more costly overpopulation immigration living off OUR Social Security will kill it for sure?

  3. avatar

    Social Security Doesn’t Need Any Immigration Overpopulation

    Immigration overpopulation is draining Social Security dry; since they took it out of its locked box budget and made it a general budget federal debt cash pot…the Social Security recipients take out far less in a lifetime than they contributed.

  4. avatar

    Obama end his administration knowing admitted let a MS13 criminal gang member to came to USA , end a bus loaded of under age ******** illegals aliens into USA , they never did check this criminals young man MS13 gang, the democrats are to far to the left now days only a ignorant end brain dead will vote for this bastards next election.

  5. avatar

    We should NOT be spending ONE DIME of our tax dollars to support illegal aliens.. period!!! We spend WELL OVER $100 Billion of our tax dollars EVERY year supporting illegal aliens… we need to STOP ALL free handouts to ALL illegal aliens to start with… Our government encourages these illegal aliens to invade our country for all the free handouts… IF they want to come, they need to come LEGALLY!! AND pay their own way…. WHY are WE paying for their medical care while they get paid under the table and send their money back to Mexico… INSANITY!!!
    It’s bad enough that we have American citizens who commit fraud and use services they should not be using.. Welfare is suppose to be a hand up for Citizens ONLY… it’s NOT suppose to be a career and it is NOT suppose to be used for Non-Citizens…

  6. avatar
    Eunice schrand on

    Why are you still busing them in. Stop that. Are you an allcoholic trying the same thing over and over expecting different results. Like the Greeks

  7. avatar
    Eunice schrand on

    Stop catch and release. And if that baby doesn’t have at least 1 u.s. parent then its still a citizen of that country that the mother comes from. And I would make the country they come from pay for them

  8. avatar

    We May Be Moving to a One Income Family

    As the Milenials age….the Milenial women were polled and 70% just want to be stay at home housewives with a working hubby. The opposite of the Gen-x women?

    This means even the Milenials smell automation reducing future employment anyway? Why do we need more population growth immigration?

  9. avatar

    When mass immigration advocates get all misty eyed about how it’s the “same as when your great grandparents came here”, the fact is that it is not the same at all. Many people were turned around at Ellis Island and sent back, mainly for two reasons. One was having a communicable disease [something we cannot control now when illegals cross the border undetected, the rise in TB being an example], and the other was if they had a good chance of becoming a “public charge”.

    We are in fact attracting the wrong kind of people now. Those coming a hundred and more years ago were exactly what the stereotype of immigration was. That is, self reliant people who uprooted themselves from family they would likely never see again, crossed an ocean in crowded ships, and arrived here with little money but a tremendous will to succeed. And it’s also true that at times large percentages returned home because it could be a hard life and there was no welfare system to rely on.

    We are now importing poverty on a large scale with present immigrants. Our schools are shortchanging American students because of the huge amounts that must be spent to bring non English speaking students up to the minimal standards. And even that is not very successful. As shown by the above figures, the portrayals of DACA beneficiaries as all Rhodes scholars is nothing but propaganda.

    • avatar

      Agree… we should NOT be spending ONE dime on ANY illegal aliens period… those coming legally should be capable of supporting themselves .. my ancestors came and supported themselves and earned their way.. they worked hard and eventually became citizens…
      I’m FED up with our tax dollars being used to cater to illegal aliens and others who are NOT citizens…
      at some point if this is not stopped, this country is going to collapse under the strain…

  10. avatar

    Yes, US should tighten the law for the immigrants, US Citizens work hard to earn their benefits, and it is not a privilege to live in the US, come on!