The majority of immigrants in the U.S. receive some form of government welfare, significantly outpacing native-born Americans who use benefit programs, according to a study released Wednesday.
The Center for Immigration Studies, a non-profit organization that advocates for decreased immigration, reported that 51 percent of immigrant households used at least one welfare program in 2012 versus 30 percent of native-born households.
The 21-point difference marks a far larger gap in those using welfare benefits—including Medicaid, food stamps, and housing programs—than previous census surveys indicated.
Steven Camarota, the center’s director of research and author of the report, said one of his most surprising findings was the sharp increase in welfare use among households with children. He found that 76 percent of immigrant-led households with children receive welfare, contrasted with 52 percent of native-born.
“At a time when a lot of American families are struggling to provide for their children, we’re bringing in a lot of immigrant families who are also struggling to feed their kids,” he told The Daily Signal.
Camarota said barring immigrants from accessing welfare benefits does not significantly impact the use of government programs, largely because many immigrants have U.S.-born children or children under 18 who are eligible for certain benefits.
Instead, he encouraged a “selective” legal immigration system that, for example, accepts only college graduates to drive welfare rates down.
“It’s wrong to think of this as some kind of moral defect, shortcoming, or failing on the part of immigrants,” Camarota said. “That’s not what’s happening. What is happening is we have a legal immigration system that’s bringing in a lot of people who don’t have a lot of education.”
His report found that 76 percent of households headed by an immigrant who had not graduated high school received welfare, as did 63 percent of households headed by an immigrant with only a high school education.
“You either select immigrants unlikely to need welfare because they are educated and you enforce your immigration laws and encourage illegal immigrants to go home, or you accept the fact that welfare use rates are going to be high,” he said.
The majority of immigrants using welfare are in the U.S. legally. Illegal immigrants had only a minor impact on Camarota’s findings.