Magazine article USA TODAY

Immigration and Welfare Reform: Finally, Taxpayers Are Being Considered

Magazine article USA TODAY

Immigration and Welfare Reform: Finally, Taxpayers Are Being Considered

Article excerpt

"Americans are willing to help those who need it, but have grown increasingly tired of subsidizing non-citizens, the addicted, criminals, and those who simply refuse to work."

Welfare hurst people. It hurts those who receive it by creating a culture of dependency that kills their desire to better their lives. Welfare hurts those who are forced to pay for it by taxing their hard-earned income and spending the money on people who refuse to work.

There are many areas of America's welfare system desperately in need of reform. After 40 years of neglect by Congressional Democrats, Republicans in the 104th Congress delivered welfare reform that encourages work and discourages dependency. After twice breaking an election-year promise with vetoes, Pres. Clinton finally agreed to sign the welfare reform package.

Perhaps the aspect most in need of reform is the explosive growth in the use of welfare by non-citizens. While many immigrants come to the U.S. to be productive contributors to our economy and society, others view our nation as nothing more than a taxpayer-funded retirement home. By allowing immigrants to compete with citizens for welfare, we allow non-citizens to take advantage disproportionally of scarce welfare resources while ignoring our own citizens, minorities, and urban poor. The starting point for allocating resources ought not to be what is in the interest of every single person in the world, but what is in the best interest of the U.S. and its taxpayers.

As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, I introduced H.R. 2202, the Immigration in the National Interest Act of 1995, to reduce illegal immigration and ensure that new Americans are self-reliant and productive contributors to our society. The bill prevents illegal aliens from taking advantage of taxpayer-funded welfare programs and requires immigrants to have jobs or financial sponsors who are responsible for supporting them. H.R. 2202 passed the House of Representatives on a strong bipartisan vote of 333-87, and its Senate companion passed by a vote of 97-3.

These goals are consistent with this country's long-standing immigration policy. Self-sufficiency has been a basic principle of U.S. immigration law from this country's earliest immigration statutes. Since 1882, aliens found likely to become public charges have been subject to exclusion from the U.S. Since 1917, immigrants who become public charges after entry have been subject to deportation.

It continues to be the immigration policy of the U.S. that aliens within our borders should not depend on taxpayer-funded public resources to meet their needs, but, rather, rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, their sponsors, and private charitable organizations. The availability of taxpayer-funded welfare programs should not be an incentive to come to America--legally or illegally.

Despite our historic principles of self-sufficiency, non-citizens have been receiving welfare checks from Federal, state, and local taxpayers at increasing rates. Only a negligible number of immigrants who become public charges are deported because courts effectively have invalidated the public charge statute. Various state court decisions, including those by immigration courts, have held that affidavits of financial support do not impose a legal obligation on sponsors to live up to their agreements. As a result, these provisions have failed to prevent immigrants from taking advantage of the generosity of American taxpayers.

Examples of the failure of the current immigration system to encourage self-reliance are numerous. Perhaps the most notable scholar in the field of immigrants and welfare, George Borjas of Harvard University, has found that 21% of immigrants currently are receiving welfare payments, compared to 14% of citizens. Not only is there a higher percentage of immigrants on the welfare rolls, but they receive more welfare dollars per person than citizens. …

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