The man who authored a study showing some groups of immigrants are much more expensive for U.S. taxpayers says the practice of deciding who to admit needs to return to reality.
“It really suggests there’s something fundamentally wrong with our immigration policy,” said Jason Richwine in an interview with WND about his study that revealed American taxpayers fork over $6,234 in federal welfare benefits for the average immigrant-headed household.
But that figure is only $4,431 for the average household led by someone born in the U.S.
Richwine, an independent public policy analyst who authored the study for the Center for Immigration Studies, said, “If we were going to sit down and write a new immigration policy from scratch, we would not have one where immigrants use more welfare than natives.”
He said many people may be concerned about overall levels of welfare spending, not just spending on immigrants. But he noted the U.S., as a sovereign nation, can choose which immigrants it admits. And if immigrants are consuming a considerable portion of welfare, it probably means the U.S. is not choosing very well.
“It means we’re spending a lot of money on immigrant households for welfare that maybe we don’t want to necessarily spend,” Richwine said. “And so if anyone takes anything away from this study, I would like it to be sort of a wake-up call that the immigration policy we have right now is not rational, and we can do a lot better than the irrational hodge-podge that it is right now.”
He found immigrants from Central America and Mexico are the costliest, consuming an average of $8,251 in welfare spending. Meanwhile, immigrants from South Asia were the least costly at an average of $2,565, followed by Europeans at $3,509.
He said one factor that should be acknowledged is that if all categories of people had the same level of education and same number of children, their costs would be close to the same.
But he said the reality is some groups have less education and more children, so they use more welfare. He urges pro-immigration advocates not to get caught up in hypothetical arguments.
“It’s not a very interesting hypothetical,” Richwine said. “After all, the whole point of a report like the one I’ve done is to say immigrants use more welfare because of the skills they bring to the table, and if you just assume away the skill differences then you’ve lost all policy relevance.”
Richwine concluded in his study that only a full-scale rollback of the welfare state for both immigrants and natives will prevent immigrants from consuming large amounts of welfare money, but he conceded such a rollback is not likely to occur anytime soon.
“As long as the U.S. continues to admit large numbers of low-skill immigrants (legal or illegal), then immigrant welfare consumption will remain high,” he said.
But does that mean the U.S. should replace low-skilled immigrants with more highly skilled ones?
Richwine told WND he would not favor a policy that opened the floodgates to high-skilled immigrants. He said there would still be problems, including cultural differences between natives and the arriving immigrants. Also, high-skilled immigrants would still compete with natives for jobs – they would just compete with high-skilled natives instead of low-skilled ones.
“I would not necessarily advocate a high-skill immigration policy if it means a lot of immigrants in general, but certainly from a purely welfare perspective we would do a lot better if we move from a low-skill to a high-skill system,” he said.