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.