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MYTH vs. FACT: Federal Benefits For Illegal Immigrants

Apr 19, 2013 | Press Releases

MYTH: Passing the immigration bill will result in millions of illegal immigrants becoming citizens and relying on welfare programs.

  • “The pending bill could also spike welfare costs, because many of the 11 million illegal immigrants who would get a conditional amnesty are unskilled, and likely to receive far more in welfare benefits than they pay in taxes. A 2007 cost estimate said retirement costs for 11 million amnestied illegal immigrants would cost $2.6 trillion.” (Neil Munro, “Rubio calls for debate on amnesty and guest-worker bill,” Daily Caller, 4/5/13)
  • “Many anti-immigration advocates fear opening the doors to new immigrants will put a drain on federal resources with more people gaining access to welfare programs.” (Rebekah Metzler, “Marco Rubio Offers Defense of New Immigration Deal,” US News, 4/16/13)

FACT: Opponents of immigration reform try to have it both ways: on the one hand, they argue illegal immigrants who receive legal status will take jobs from Americans, but then argue that practically all illegal immigrants are unskilled, virtually unemployable, and will need welfare to live. Neither assertion is true. Currently – with the exception of ObamaCare – anyone who is not an American citizen or has been a permanent legal resident for at least five years does not have access to federal benefits, and this bill reaffirms that law. In addition, the bill explicitly states that the people who earn legal status will not be covered under the requirements set forth under ObamaCare. In order to qualify for a temporary legal status, illegal immigrants must prove they were in the U.S. prior to December 31, 2011, have not committed any serious crimes, and have paid any federal taxes assessed upon them, as well as meeting a multitude of admissibility requirements. After six years with a temporary status, this status must be renewed by proving they have paid federal taxes, been gainfully employed, their household income is above the poverty line, and most importantly, that they do not pose a risk of becoming a public charge, proving they will continue to be able to support themselves without public assistance. After at least 10 years, if the six security triggers are met and backlog of legal immigrant applicants has been cleared, then, and only then, will those currently here illegally have the ability to apply for a green card – and even then, they do not receive any federal benefits for an additional 5 years. The net result is that for at least the next 15 years, millions of people already living in the U.S. will begin paying taxes without receiving any benefits – resulting in a net surplus for our federal budget.

Reporting on how illegal immigrants will not have access to federal benefits or ObamaCare resulting in a surplus in the federal budget:

  • “It’s also worth noting, however, that the Gang of Eight draft summary says those newly legal workers won’t be eligible for either ObamaCare or most other welfare benefits for at least a decade, and maybe longer.” (Editorial, “The Immigration Windfall,” The Wall Street Journal, 4/16/13)
  • “Under the bill, immigrants here illegally could gain a provisional legal status six months after enactment as long as they meet certain criteria, and if the Homeland Security Department has moved forward on plans to secure the border. They would remain in that provisional status for 10 years, able to work legally but barred from federal benefits like welfare or health care.” (Erica Werner, “Bipartisan Bill Would Remake Immigration System,” Associated Press, 4/16/13)
  • “Immigrants in the provisional status would not be eligible for any means-tested public benefits.” (Manu Raju, Carrie Buddoff Brown, and Anna Palmer, “Immigration Ready for Debut,” Politico, 4/15/13)
  • “Immigrants granted provisional visas would not be eligible for public-welfare benefits, and could not apply for tax credits when filing their taxes.” (Dan Nowicki and Daniel González, “Senators unveil outline of immigration-reform bill,” Arizona Republic, 4/16/13)
  • “Using the standard estimation tool of the Congressional Budget Office, which Holtz-Eakin used to direct, the extra growth adds up to $2.7 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade.” (Jim Tankersley, “Expanded Immigration Would Reduce the Federal Deficit, Some Conservatives Say,” The Washington Post, 4/8/13)
  • “In a letter to Mr.[David]  Addington [group vice president of research at Heritage] Thursday, Mr. Rubio said immigration would ultimately be a boon to the economy. Under the Senate plan, future immigrants would be evaluated more frequently based on their skills and employment prospects, which would help promote economic growth, Mr. Rubio wrote. ‘I am keenly aware that there will be budgetary impacts when illegal immigrants begin to access citizenship beginning 13 years after immigration reform is enacted,’ Mr. Rubio wrote. ‘However, I also believe that immigration reform…will improve the labor market, increase entrepreneurship and create jobs, leading to a net increase in economic growth and reducing the deficit.’” (Sara Murray, “Rubio: Economy Will Benefit From Immigration Bill,” The Wall Street Journal, 4/18/13)