Axios is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security is considering denying citizenship to immigrants who accept welfare, popular tax deductions or any other public benefits such as food stamps, according to a draft of the proposal obtained by the Washington Post.
A rule change by the Department of Homeland Security would require immigration caseworkers to consider a much wider range of factors when evaluating whether someone is likely to be dependent on public assistance. In addition to forms of cash welfare assistance already used in such cases, it would add the “non-cash” benefits used by more than one-fifth of the U.S. population, both foreign- and native-born. DHS officials said the proposal is not yet final, but the administration is eager to ensure “that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S are self-sufficient.” Trump proposal would penalize immigrants who use tax credits and other benefits
So how many illegal immigrants are living in the United States and how much are they costing the American taxpayer?
The Number of Illegal Immigrants in the US
According to FAIR – Estimating the fiscal burden of illegal immigration on the U.S. taxpayer depends on the size and characteristics of the illegal alien population. FAIR defines “illegal alien” as anyone who entered the United States without authorization and anyone who unlawfully remains once his/her authorization has expired. Unfortunately, the U.S. government has no central database containing information on the citizenship status of everyone lawfully present in the United States. The overall problem of estimating the illegal alien population is further complicated by the fact that the majority of available sources on immigration status rely on self-reported data. Given that illegal aliens have a motive to lie about their immigration status, in order to avoid discovery, the accuracy of these statistics is dubious, at best. All of the foregoing issues make it very difficult to assess the current illegal alien population of the United States.
However, FAIR now estimates that there are approximately 12.5 million illegal alien residents. This number uses FAIR’s previous estimates but adjusts for suspected changes in levels of unlawful migration, based on information available from the Department of Homeland Security, data available from other federal and state government agencies, and other research studies completed by reliable think tanks, universities, and other research organizations.
The Cost of Illegal Immigration to the United States
At the federal, state, and local levels, taxpayers shell out approximately $134.9 billion to cover the costs incurred by the presence of more than 12.5 million illegal aliens, and about 4.2 million citizen children of illegal aliens. That amounts to a tax burden of approximately $8,075 per illegal alien family member and a total of $115,894,597,664. The total cost of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers is both staggering and crippling. In 2013, FAIR estimated the total cost to be approximately $113 billion. So, in under four years, the cost has risen nearly $3 billion. This is a disturbing and unsustainable trend. The sections below will break down and further explain these numbers at the federal, state, and local levels.
Total Governmental Expenditures on Illegal Aliens
Why cutting off benefits of immigrants matters: Buzz surrounding the proposal has already led some immigrants to drop out of supplemental nutrition programs, the New York Times reported earlier this month. But this is the first time the Earned Income Tax Credit was listed as a possible reason to deny an immigrant permanent residence.
Immigrants hoping for permanent residence are dropping out of public nutrition programs even before prominent elements of the Trump administration’s proposed policy changes are enacted, fearful that participating could threaten their citizenship eligibility or put them at risk for deportation, according to program administrators.
Statistics on participation in state and local efforts show fewer people are using an array of food programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (called WIC) as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and food banks.
“The rumor mill is rampant, and the fear is palpable,” said Lisa David, president and chief executive of Public Health Solutions, a major WIC and SNAP provider for New York City. “The stakes for what could happen in the future are incredibly high, and people just aren’t willing to take that risk.”
The Department of Homeland Security has drafted a regulation that would allow officials to factor in the use of benefits — like WIC, SNAP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and even housing and transit subsidies — when deciding whether to approve some visa or green card applications.
A leaked draft of the proposal first reported by Reuters and then published by Vox showed that immigrants seeking an adjustment of status, such as those applying for permanent residency, “must establish that they are not likely at any time to become a public charge” or rely heavily on long-term government assistance, lest they be deemed “inadmissible.”
A study conducted by the National Academies of Sciences showed that 45.3 percent of all immigrant-headed households with children use a food assistance program. The vast majority of those children are American citizens.
Administration officials say that fiscal responsibility motivated the policy move.
“The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer,” said Tyler Q. Houlton, the acting press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. “Any potential changes to the rule would be in keeping with the letter and spirit of the law — as well as the reasonable expectations of the American people for the government to be good stewards of taxpayer funds.”
Throughout the first year of the Trump presidency, agencies in regions with high immigrant populations have reported canceled appointments, urgent requests for disenrollment and even subsequent requests to have any record of families purged from the database.
Immigrants who have withdrawn from these services are reluctant to speak out about their plight owing to fears that identifying themselves publicly could result in legal repercussions.
In New Jersey, three neighboring counties — Union, Essex and Hudson — have immigrant populations above 25 percent, according to census data. In those counties, participation in some elements of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey’s outreach programming fell by almost half between 2016 and 2017, according to Julienne Cherry, the bank’s director of agency relations.
As of November 2017, the New Jersey SNAP program also reported a decrease of 8.1 percent in statewide participants over a one-year period. Enrollment rates in Essex and Union Counties had dropped by more than 10 percent.
According to preliminary data, Florida saw a 9.6 percent decrease in WIC participation over the one-year period from November 2016 to 2017. Texas lost 7.4 percent of WIC participants — and some offices in heavily Spanish-speaking communities there say they are considering laying off employees because of the drastically decreasing caseload.