The Trump administration and several House Republicans have made it clear that poor immigrants are not welcome in the United States. They blame uneducated, unskilled newcomers for a host of social and economic problems — such as taking away blue-collar jobs from Americans and burdening taxpayers. And they accuse the current immigration system of letting in immigrants who mooch off the welfare state.
“They’re not going to come in and just immediately go and collect welfare,” Trump said during a press conference this week.
But the idea that immigrants come to America to live off the government is wrong. The vast majority of new immigrants are not eligible for welfare. Even green card holders must wait for years to get most benefits. The United States already rejects applications from potential immigrants who could end up on government assistance — people who aren’t financially stable can’t even get tourist visas. And research shows that poor, uneducated immigrants are the least likely group to use welfare.
Still, the RAISE Act, introduced this week by two House Republicans, would slash the flow of legal immigration and favor those who can “stand on their own two feet, and pay taxes, and not receive welfare.” It would also cap the number of refugees allowed into the country, and would prioritize high-skilled, affluent immigrants who speak English.
To garner support for such a measure, the White House made several false claims about immigrants and their impact on the welfare system:
“The RAISE Act prevents new migrants and new immigrants from collecting welfare … they’re not going to come in and just immediately go and collect welfare.” —President Donald Trump
The new bill doesn’t do much more than current laws do to prevent immigrants from collecting welfare — in large part because it’s actually quite hard for immigrants to get public assistance.