Census data show that immigrants’ use of those welfare programs is roughly triple the use by native-born Americans, who usually have worked for decades to build their own wealth, he said.
For example, among native-born Americans aged 65 or older, eight percent use Medicaid, 6 percent get food stamps, and 2 percent get cash welfare, Camarota said.
The bill adds up to a cost of $300,000 to $400,000 per older immigrant, or roughly $18,000 per year, said Robert Rector, an immigration specialist at the Heritage Foundation.
At that cost, the 130,424 older immigrants admitted in 2011 will cost almost $40 billion over the next few decades.
The bulk of transfers are made via the Medicare and Social Security Income programs, partly because few older immigrants work long enough to qualify for Social Security payments, he said.
“The low rates of work and high welfare use of immigrants who arrive at older ages is NOT some kind of moral defect on the part of immigrants,” Camarota said.
“It simply reflects their age, their having come to a new country, and the existence of a well developed welfare state in this country,” he said. But “if you want to admit immigrants who are going to be self-sufficient, you will have to move … towards a [immigration] system that selects relatively young immigrants who are highly educated,” he said.
Other immigration reform advocates were more blunt.
“The U.S. gains little when admitting a 62 year-old man,” said Kristen Williamson, a spokeswoman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
“Our immigration system should serve the national interest.. [which] means admitting individuals with skills the U.S. is lacking,” she said, adding that “the current system based on family reunification puts the interest of immigrants above Americans.”
Older immigrants “may bring some comfort to their own immediate family, but they not going to contribute to the economy, and are essentially another hole in the bottom of a sinking boat,” said Rector.
“The U.S. taxpayer really can’t afford this,” partly because the U.S. is already borrowing more than $1 trillion per year, he said. Taxpayers “can’t afford an inflow of dependents from the third world… there’s really no way to argue against that,” he added.
However, immigrant lobbies oppose curbs on family reunification green-cards.
The League of United Latin American Citizens “supports ‘Comprehensive Immigration Reform,’ and that does include [residency] for the older Americans here for 20, 25 years… [and] all people that would want to unify with their [immigrant] families,” said Paloma Zuleta, a LULAC spokeswoman.
Questions about the costs and benefits of older immigrants “are technical and in-the-weed matters,” she declared.
However, those older immigrants are not in the weeds for the Obama campaign, which is working hard to maximize support among immigrants.
When Pedro C. arrived at the Obama campaign’s site, Wells made sure to highlight his support for Obama.
“I support the President because I can relate to him,” said Pedro C., according to a translation provided by a Latino volunteer named Angeles, said Wells’ post.
“The President, like myself, came from nothing. Nothing was handed to him. Now look at him — he is the President of the United States of America. Now that is storybook. That is why the President gets my vote,” Pedro said, according to Wells.
“Join Pedro, Angeles, and other supporters in your community — sign up to volunteer, no matter what language you speak, or join Latinos for Obama today,” concluded Wells’ post.