The left is in a tizzy because the Trump administration is planning to unfold a major crackdown on immigrants who benefit from public welfare. According to a draft proposal obtained by the Washington Post, the Department of Homeland Security may soon penalize immigrants who accept welfare or other forms of public benefit when it comes time to apply for visa extensions and citizenship status. Already, applications for food stamps and welfare are used against an immigrant who wants to extend their stay in the U.S., but the Trump administration wants to push the penalties further and include certain tax credits and health insurance subsidies in the mix.
To immigration-rights activists, this is just the worst thing in the world. And every time they want to speak out against the proposed changes, they fall back on the same statistic. You’ll indeed find this argument at the conclusion (the last thing readers read before they move on with their day) of the Washington Post article:
One notable aspect of the proposal indicates native-born Americans use public benefits at roughly the same rate the foreign-born.
Out the 41.5 million immigrants living in the U.S., 3.7 percent received cash benefits in 2013, and 22.7 percent accepted non-cash benefits including Medicaid, housing subsidies or home heating assistance, according to statistics compiled by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Those figures were nearly identical to the percentage of native-born Americans who get the same forms of assistance. Of the 270 million nonimmigrants, 3.4 percent received cash welfare that year, USCIS research found, and 22.1 percent received non-cash benefits.
Okay, so let’s take these statistics at face value and assume that the underlying argument is true: Native-born Americans use public benefits at a rate comparable to immigrants. Fine.
You’ll probably recognize a version of this argument from the other side of the immigration debate; liberals like to trot out the (highly contested) fact that immigrants commit crimes at a lower rate than native-born Americans. At least in this economic case, the media isn’t confusing legal immigrants with illegal immigrants, which is what they like to do with the crime stats, but there is a big problem either way. No matter if Americans are committing crimes and accepting welfare at ridiculously high rates, that doesn’t mean we should tolerate ANY of it from immigrants. Why should we import people who are going to be “no better” than the people already here? Why should we import more problems, even if those problems are overstated?
Our immigration policy should not be a form of global charity. And if it IS that, then let’s have the Democrats come right out and sell it as that. Otherwise, we have every right to make sure not only that immigrants to this country contribute to the betterment of society but that they do it BETTER than native-born Americans. If that becomes the case, then “diversity” actually DOES become America’s strength and not just a meaningless left-wing buzzword.