A report titled “Chilling Effects: The Expected Public Charge Rule and Its Impact on Legal Immigrant Families' Public Benefits Use,” which was issued by the Migration Policy Institute, showed that 10.3 million out of the 22 million immigrants living in the United States receive public benefits from at least one of several welfare programs funded by taxpayers. These include Social Security, food stamps, Temporary Aid to Families (TANF), and Supplemental Security Income. Also, 54.2 percent of foreign minors, age 17 and younger, are granted welfare benefits. The report also indicated that 46.3 percent of immigrants receiving welfare are adults, age 18 to 54, while 47.8 percent are older than 54.

In its report, MPI noted that it examined a leaked draft of a presidential executive order that would deny legal residence permits (green cards) to persons who receive public benefits, or have relatives who do. The report goes on to explain how the Trump Administration's Public Charge Rule would reduce the number of foreign nationals on welfare, cause a decrease in immigration levels, and make it more difficult for foreign nationals and their dependents to be eligible for welfare benefits.

"Although it is difficult to estimate precisely how many people would alter their behavior in response to the proposed change in public-chart policy, if immigrants' use patterns were to follow those observed during the late 1990s there could be a decline of between 20 percent and 60 percent -- and that even some members of groups exempt from the new rule [e.g. refugees] would likely withdraw from pubic programs." 

According to MPI, the Trump administration was finalizing a proposed rule that could have “wide-reaching effects on legal immigration to the United States and lead to a sharp drop in use of public benefits by legally present noncitizens and their dependents.” The policy, according to MPI, the administration is also “contemplating changing the standard for when receipt of public benefits can be used as grounds for the deportation of legally present noncitizens.”

The MPI report  analyzes American Community Survey (ACS) data on use of public benefits in the 2014–16 period to assess the current level of benefits use by noncitizens, naturalized citizens, and U.S. born residents “to understand the potential magnitude of the draft proposed rule’s effects.” 

In California, MPI noted that there were 1.2 million non-citizens of Asian and Pacific Island origin living in the states. Among these, 35.7 percent were receiving any of the four major public benefits. The report notes that there are 5,251,400 non-citizens living in California. The report noted that there were 3,431,200 non-citizen residents of Hispanic origin. Of these, 67.1 percent were receiving any of four public benefits. In swing-state Florida, there were 1,843,900 non-citizens. It notes that 158,200 are Asian and Pacific Islanders, 22.1 percent are receiving any of the four major public benefits. Of non-citizens of Hispanic origin (1,132,000), 53.6 percent were receiving any of the four public benefits.

The report noted that there are 21,909,800 non-citizens living in the United States. There are 20,429,300 naturalized citizens, and 270,656,900 U.S. born citizens. Among non-citizens, it found that overall 47.2 percent are receiving public benefits. Among the naturalized, 36.1 percent are receiving benefits, while among U.S.-born citizens 32.1 percent receive benefits.

Among persons of Asian and Pacific Island origin, 30.6 percent of non-citizens receive benefits. Among naturalized citizens of Asian/Pacific Island origin, 32.7 percent receive benefits, while among U.S.-born of Asian/Pacific Island origin 29.4 percent receive benefits. Among non-citizens of Hispanic origin in the United States, 58.4 percent receive benefits; 45.1 percent of naturalized citizens of Hispanic origin receive benefits; 53.1 percent of U.S. born persons of Hispanic origin receive benefits. More than half of all non-citizen children and teens in the United States are receiving taxpayer-funded welfare, mostly Medicaid, while nearly half of all non-citizen adults legally in the country are on welfare, according to a new report.

According to the report:

“Although it is difficult to estimate precisely how many people would alter their behavior in response to the proposed change in public-chart policy, if immigrants’ use patterns were to follow those observed during the late 1990s there could be a decline of between 20 percent and 60 percent -- and that even some members of groups exempt from the new rule [e.g. refugees] would likely withdraw from pubic programs.”

Among the other key findings of the report: 

“Based on the experience of the 1990s immigration and welfare reforms, it is reasonable to expect that the rule will discourage millions of immigrants from accessing health, nutrition, and social services.

“These ‘chilling effects’ are likely to stretch beyond immigrants themselves to affect U.S.-citizen children whose parents may disenroll them from services for fear of immigration consequences.

“These impacts are likely to weigh most heavily on states with large immigrant populations and those with inclusive public-benefit policies, such as California and New York.

“The draft proposed rule also could significantly reshape future legal immigration flows by giving the administration broad discretion to deny a much larger share of applications from prospective immigrants as well as those already present who are seeking a green card. Specifically, it would become more difficult for children, the elderly, persons with lower levels of education and/or limited English proficiency, and those with incomes under 250 percent of the federal poverty level to enter and remain in the United States. As a result, the administration could significantly shift the U.S. legal immigration system away from family-based immigration without the involvement of Congress.”
 

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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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