Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Do You Really Know What Illegals Receive Assistance? Rumors versus Facts

So many rumors, half-truths, and lies circulate about immigration claims. For example, one popular Facebook post reported “more than 43 percent of all food stamps are given to illegals.”

PolitiFact, the national politics website of the Tampa Bay Times, has long been tracking and debunking inaccurate statements about immigration.

In 2012, PolitiFact found that immigration claims are especially prone to exaggerations and falsehoods. For example, 29 percent of all claims they check earn a “False” or “Pants on Fire” for inaccuracy. But for immigration, 35 percent do.

About 46.4 million people receive food stamps, so 43 percent of that number (the rumored number about food stamps given to illegals) would be just under 20 million. That significantly exceeds estimates for how many illegal immigrants are in the country.

As of 2015, the population has remained essentially stable for five years, and currently makes up 3.5% of the nation’s population. The number of unauthorized immigrants peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million, when this group was 4% of the U.S. population.

A Department of Homeland Security report estimating the size of the illegal immigrant population living in the U.S. said, "In summary, an estimated 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants were living in the United States in January 2012 compared to 11.5 million in January 2011. Additionally, 11.3 million unauthorized immigrants were estimated to be living in the U.S. In 2014.

(Bryan Baker and Nancy Rytina. “Estimate of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States.” March 2013)

By the way, according to Pew Research Center estimates, Mexicans make up about half of all unauthorized immigrants (49%). There were 5.6 million Mexican unathorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2014, down from 6.4 million in 2009.

(Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel. “5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S.” Pew Research Center. November 19, 2015.)

Most social welfare programs bar illegal immigrants from receiving benefits and require proof of immigration status. That includes food stamps, as well as cash welfare assistance, Medicaid, and even the new health care law.

(Angie Drobnic Holan. “Fact-checking immigration. PolitiFact. July 01, 2012.)

It is true that some children of illegal immigrants qualify for benefits if they were born in the United States and are citizens. (Critics derisively call them "anchor babies.") But there aren't nearly enough of those types of children -- an estimated 4 million -- to account for 43 percent of food stamp recipients.

“Nearly 60 percent of all occupants of HUD properties in the U.S. are illegals” is another false claim purporting that illegal immigrants dominate public housing run by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department.

PolitiFact also gave that statement a “Pants on Fire” because it would require half of all illegal immigrants in the country to live in that housing. And again, HUD requires proof of legal status.

Who Is Eligible For the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

So, let's go straight to the source. Here is the policy at SNAP about Non-Citizen Eligibility.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP Policy on Non-Citizen Eligibility

Last Published: 11/07/2014
A person must be a U.S. citizen or an eligible, lawfully-present non-citizen to qualify for SNAP benefits. Non-citizens who are eligible based on their immigration status must also satisfy other SNAP eligibility requirements such as income and resource limits to receive SNAP benefits.

 Non-citizens eligible with no waiting period.
 The following non-citizens are eligible with no waiting period:

  • Qualified alien children under 18.
  • Refugees admitted under section 207 of INA (includes victims of severe forms of trafficking).
  • Victims of Trafficking under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000.
  • Asylees under Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
  • Deportation withheld under 243(h) or 241(b)(3) of INA.
  • Amerasian immigrants under 584 of the Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs Appropriations Act.
  • Cuban or Haitian entrants as defined in 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980.
  • Iraqi and Afghan special immigrants under Section 101(a)(27) of the INA.
  • Certain American Indians born abroad.
  • Members of Hmong or Highland Laotian tribes that helped the U.S. military during the Vietnam era, and who are legally living in the U.S., and their spouses or surviving spouses and unmarried dependent children.
  • Elderly individuals born on or before Aug. 22, 1931 and who lawfully resided in the U.S. on Aug. 22, 1996.
  • Lawful Permanent Residents in the U.S. and receiving government payments for disability or blindness.
  • Lawful Permanent Residents with a military connection (veteran, on active duty, or spouse or child of a veteran or active duty service member).

 Qualified aliens eligible after a waiting period.
 A qualified alien is a non-citizen with a certain immigration status as defined under PRWORA.
A qualified alien who does not belong to one of the non-citizen groups listed above as eligible with no waiting period can get SNAP benefits if the person is otherwise eligible, and is:
  • A Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) who has earned, or can be credited with, 40 quarters of work; or
  • A qualified alien in one of the following groups who has been in qualified status for 5 years:
    o Paroled for at least one year under section 212(d)(5) of INA.
    o Granted conditional entry under 203(a)(7) of INA in effect prior to 4/1/80.
    o Battered spouse, battered child or parent or child of a battered person with a petition pending under 204(a)(1)(A) or (B) or 244(a)(3) of INA.

Some States have programs to supply food benefits in lieu of SNAP to non-citizens who do not qualify for SNAP benefits. This information can be accessed in the SNAP State Options Report.

Click here to find the info: .   

I will leave it to the reader to check on the special eligibility requirements. They are much too detailed to include in this blog entry.

My View

A person claiming illegals wrongly “use” the system to collect government benefits should consider that the U.S. Census Bureau data reveals that most U.S. families headed by illegal immigrants use taxpayer-funded welfare programs on behalf of their American-born babies.

This is vastly different from claims that most illegals are the recipients, themselves.

Under current practice, these children of illegals are U.S. citizens at birth simply because they were born on U.S. soil. They automatically qualify as an American citizen under jus soli (right of the soil) and the rights guaranteed in the 14th Amendment. 

The American-born children become eligible to sponsor for legal immigration most of their relatives, including their illegal alien mothers, when they turn 21 years of age, thus becoming the U.S. "anchor" for an extended immigrant family.

So, while it is true that undocumented immigrants can get federal funds to help pay for health care and food for their citizen children, most have no easier way to gain citizenship themselves.

According to Politifact, “Having a child can also help an undocumented parent qualify for relief from deportation, but only 4,000 unauthorized immigrants can receive such status per year, and the alien has to have been in the U.S. for at least 10 years.”

While there is no formal policy that forbids DHS from deporting the illegal alien parents of children born in the U.S., they rarely are actually deported. In some cases, immigration judges make exceptions for the parents on the basis of their U.S.-born children and grant the parents legal status. In many cases, though, immigration officials choose not to initiate removal proceedings against illegal aliens with U.S.-born children, so they simply remain here illegally.

Numbers of Babies Born to Illegal Immigrants

About 340,000 of the 4.3 million babies born in the United States in 2008 -- or 8 percent -- had at least one parent who was an illegal immigrant, according to a study published in August, 2010, by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group in Washington. And, of all the children of undocumented immigrants in the U.S., about 80% were born here – the rest were born abroad.

Children of illegal immigrants make up 7 percent of all people in the country younger than 18 years old, according to the study, which is based on March 2009 census figures, the most recent data on immigrant families. Nearly four out of five of those children — 79 percent — are American citizens because they were born here.

The Pew figures show that most illegal immigrant mothers did not arrive recently. More than 80 percent of mothers in the country illegally had been here for more than a year, the figures show, and more than half had been in the country for five years or more, said Jeffrey S. Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center and the co-author of the study, along with Paul Taylor, the center’s director.

That blows a giant hole in the notion that mothers are crossing the U.S.-Mexican border just in time to give birth in American hospitals – the “drop and leave” notion.

Some researchers noted that the Pew figures did not identify families where both parents were illegal immigrants. “If anything, the Pew report highlights how complicated this issue is, given that so many unauthorized immigrants live in families that include U.S. citizens and legal immigrants,” said Michele Waslin, senior policy analyst for the Immigration Policy Center, a group that supports legalization for illegal immigrants.
(Julia Preston. “Births to Illegal Immigrants Are Studied.” The New York Times. August 11, 2010.)
I'll leave this entry with questions posed by Kate Pickert, staff writer for Time:

“A related question is this: If their U.S.-born children wouldn’t become automatic citizens, would illegal immigrants choose not to have children in America? Would revoking this American right under our current Constitution actually really change anything on the ground? Hospitals that now care for undocumented immigrant women would most certainly still do so, even if their babies were similarly illegal.

“Would states, which control their own schools, disallow non-citizens from attending? What would be the social consequences of having an entire generation of these children grow up in the U.S. without being educated?

“What if a child was born to an undocumented father and a U.S. citizen mother? What about an undocumented mother and a citizen father? How do you prove this? Will the federal government require paternity tests before granting citizenship? “These are the kinds of questions that need to be asked and explored to have a real debate on birthright citizenship. And, centrally, if some undocumented immigrants are coming to the U.S. solely to have children, is it citizenship they’re after? Or are there economic – i.e. jobs for parents – motivating them, along with better living conditions and a host of other contrasts between life in Mexico, say, and life in the U.S.?”

(Kate Pickert. “Dispelling 'Anchor Baby' Myths.” Time. August 11, 2010.)

I believe it is wise to understand the facts about this issue. Emotions, rumor, and slanted data cloud the truth. The government must address the problem of illegals; however, in this great country that values freedom and liberty for all, it must also be very careful not to negatively hinder the lifeblood of democracy – I trust we all agree that great respect for diversity and compassion for the poor and the oppressed are bedrocks of America.

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