OH SNAP! Immigrants and Welfare Part 2

Which scenario will anger a Trump supporter the most?

A.  An undocumented Mexican hombre leaving the job he stole to get food stamps so that he can purchase his beer.  No good Papi!  

B. A pregnant Mexican lady using her food stamps to purchase liquor for Cinco de Mayo (the only holiday that Mexicans celebrate).

C. A feisty Mexican senorita, salsa-ing through the grocery store with the YUGE amount of food stamps she has received from public tax-dollars (she pays NO taxes).   

D. A European refugee, using her modest food stamps budget to purchase asparagus and a light dessert. 

What did some readers select?



Now you know D is out. D refers to European immigrants but they don't count. Immigrant means Mexican! Unless of course youre talking about them radical terrorist. A, B, and C are equally as frightful. The only solution? Draft an Executive Order that Makes America Great Again.

Recently, one of Trump’s draft executive orders was released. Interestingly, much of Trump’s fan-base did not realize that the entire EO is only symbolically important—if that. The EO is unresearched, unfounded trash. But I'm schleep tho.  

The executive order begins “Our country’s immigration laws are designed to protect American taxpayers and promote immigrant self-sufficiency.” Well, actually. A more accurate statement is that immigration law has four stated goals: (1) family reunification, (2) economic goals fulfilled by admitting high skilled labor, (3) humanitarian refuge and (4) ensuring diversity. Nice try though!


SIDENOTE: If you use the term "ILLEGAL ALIEN".....................................



The EO continues with #alternativefacts. “For over a century it has been the policy of the United States, as required by statute, to deny entry to foreigners who are likely to become a public charge, but administrations in recent years have failed to enforce this policy.” He tried so hard. The public charge doctrine does exist. A “public charge” is “an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.” Notice that the doctrine is limited to “cash assistance.” Most benefits (food, housing, Medicaid and other health insurance, educational assistance, etc.) are not subject to the public charge doctrine because some folks have common sense & realize that immigrants are human beings.

Yawns. Trump is so unimaginative. He recycles themes, fear tactics and other canned statements that he knows will incite his supporters. Those who parrot his arguments are lazy. Trump is not the first politician who has tried to use immigrant use of “welfare” as a justification for restricting entry into the United States.

Remember PRWORA? In 1996, Bill Clinton signed PRWORA. PRWORA linked welfare eligibility and immigration status


Those PRWORA “restrictions” were largely ineffective. PRWORA restrictions were much like Young Joc’s relaxer, trying hard to accomplish something that would never work. #Fail. 



The restrictions were ineffective for several reasons.  Restricting access to welfare based on immigration status did not suddenly change the desire of immigrants to migrate to the United States (nor did such restrictions stop the US from seeking migrant labor). Also, immigration status restrictions did not save the states much money (this point will be covered in Part 3). Why?  

The restrictions were based on conservative fictions or #alternative facts. PRWORA restrictions were “based on” two theories: the welfare-magnet theory, and welfare dependency.  These theories are as strong as Naomi Campbell's edges. SKRONG.

The welfare-magnet theory assumes that more generous welfare programs are “magnets” for immigrants. Per this theory, states that have more generous welfare benefits should attract more immigrants who otherwise wouldn’t come to the United States. The proof of this would be (1) immigrants clustering in states offering the highest welfare benefits, and (2) negative self-selection: lower-skilled immigrants would choose to migrate.

If this theory were correct, then new patterns of immigration should have resulted after welfare reform (i.e. immigrants would want to move to states where they had access to more means-tested programs). That didn’t happen. This theory also assumes that there aren’t other important factors that are significant determinants of where immigrants settle like: employment opportunities, proximity to family, and established social networks. These determinants make a lot more sense. Our current immigration system has an overwhelming preference for family-based immigration. Quite simply, most people move to be with their families & for economic opportunity (jobs).

The second theory, “welfare dependency” is the idea that a person or household is more likely to rely on welfare. Differences between immigrants and natives in characteristics that increase or decrease the likelihood of welfare and the extent to which immigrants actually do receive welfare provide two measure of immigrant welfare dependency

Restrictionist would say that immigrants are more likely to be welfare dependent—therefore they should not be allowed to enter the country & that welfare itself promotes immigrant dependency.

The “proof” of welfare dependency is deduced by comparing immigrant use of welfare to native-born use of welfare.

If immigrants show higher characteristic-specific rates of welfare recipiency than do natives, observers might argue that immigrants are more welfare-dependent than natives.

If immigrants show lower rates of welfare use after group differences are controlled, observers clearly would not conclude that immigrants are more welfare-dependent than natives are.  

You can see traces of this theory in the part of Trump’s EO that states: “Yet, households headed by aliens (legal and illegal) are much more likely than households headed by native-born citizens to use federal means-tested public benefits.” Riveting. Also incorrect. 


NO. Let’s use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps) as an example. Speaking generally, (lumping together all immigrants ) new immigrants are more likely to possess characteristics that would traditionally indicate welfare dependency. Immigrants tend to have higher poverty rates, lower levels of education, and lower levels of English proficiency. In SNAP, the “participation rate” refers to the percentage of individuals eligible for SNAP  who choose to participate in the program.  Despite the fact that immigrants are more likely to have characteristics that traditionally indicate welfare dependency, immigrants have lower participation rates in SNAP compared to native-born Americans. Therefore, even though immigrants are more likely to use in-kind (non-cash) programs like food stamps in general, immigrants tend to be less likely to use food stamps than similarly situated natives. When income is restricted to low-income families, immigrants participate in SNAP at lower rates than natives. In 2012, for example, 48.0% of eligible immigrants participated in SNAP compared to 55.1% of eligible natives. Households headed by low-income immigrants rely much more heavily on earnings than native-headed households do.

Broad statements like Trumps (about immigrants being more likely to use welfare) are only true if you compare all immigrants (new immigrants, immigrants that have been here for a while, etc.) to all native-born Americans. That’s purposefully misleading and makes 0 sense for several reasons.

1.     All immigrants and all native-born Americans are not eligible for means-tested programs (so why would you even include them)? This statement is only true if you are including wealthy native-born Americans who forget that their wealth was built on the backs of immigrants. 

2.    This broad, raggedy, kind of comparison groups together all immigrants—even though welfare usage rates vary dramatically when you look at different groups of immigrants by immigration status. For example:

a.    Refugees are immediately eligible for and are usually placed on SNAP. Refugees are more likely than other immigrants to use food stamps.

b.    Noncitizen, non-refugees (i.e. Lawful Permanent Residents) underutilize welfare.

c.    Those who are undocumented are NOT eligible for welfare . And if you think about it, what undocumented person you know is  trying to be all up in the mix? In some cases, an undocumented person may be counted as using SNAP if they receive benefits "on behalf" of their U.S. Born Citizen Child. Emphasis on Citizen. Some would argue that it doesn’t matter because the household is getting benefits anyway. However, the dollar amount of food stamps given to a household depends on the number of eligible (i.e. documented) persons in the household. So yeah, no

3.    The statement above assumes that the amount of time a person is on welfare doesn’t matter. Fact: Immigrants are more likely to use welfare for shorter/transitional periods of time.

Welfare Dependency. #alternative fact.


Both of these theories depend on the assumption that immigrants use significantly more in welfare benefits than they contribute in taxes. Yeah, not true. So, if these two theories are false AND immigrants actually pay more in taxes than they use in welfare (and actually use less welfare than similarly situated natives)—the only justification for restricting immigrants because of their welfare use is quite simply classism, racism and xenophobia “hidden” behind theories that sound legit to people who have no intellectual integrity.

Why do people believe these falsities? They don't read maybe? IDK!  Welfare policy should never be used to dictate immigration restrictions. When you conflate immigration + welfare in favor of restrictionism/deportation you are saying that either someone's worth is based on their money and they shouldn’t be let in the country (classism, hypocrisy, plain stupidity) OR that if they are in the country they don’t deserve benefits even if they are hungry, dying, homeless or otherwise (all the -isms because if you believe this you are evil). Welfare by definition means “the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group.” Using welfare policy to promote the oppression of a group will only ever be for show.

One of my favorite law school professors said this: "When a broad swath of policymakers and the general public focus on public benefits, they tend to set policy in order to make symbolic statements about their vision of a moral society. These symbolic rules, however, often prove inefficient and unadministerable. As a result, once the political spotlight shifts to other issues, administrators and the handful of legislators with consistent interest in the well-being of low-income people often craft a very different kind of rule to make programs work."   

Further Reading

Immigrants Don't Drain Welfare. They Fund It.

"The Cost of Welfare Use By Immigrant and Native Households." This report is published by the Center for Immigration Studies. The CIS "favors far lower immigration numbers and produces research to further those views." I believe that much of their "research" is misleading because they aim to lower immigration numbers. Trump likely "cites" to this research. If he cites to any at all. This is a response to the above article "CIS Exaggerates the Cost of Immigrant Welfare Use."

"Poor Immigrants Use Public Benefits at a Lower Rate than Poor Native-Born Citizen." This report is published by the CATO institute. The CATO institute calls themselves "Libertarian." In many ways, they are "Right Winged." Their views on immigration are fair and (in my opinion) more accurate.

" Immigration and the Welfare State by Daniel T. Griswold"

Sustainable Development Part 2: In Defense of Short Term Missions (STMs)

Truth in Comedy: The Heart of Anti-Blackness in Latino Culture