Study: Census data show high immigrant participation on US welfare rolls

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A new study from the Center for Immigration Studies shows that high percentages of legal and illegal immigrants in America are drawing benefits from at least one major form of welfare.

Using U.S. Census Bureau data from 2010 and 2011, the group analyzed the more than 50 million legal and illegal immigrants and their American-born children under 18 years of age. Large numbers, the limited immigration advocacy group found, are struggling in poverty, reliant on welfare and uninsured.

The study found that in 2010, 36 percent of immigrant-headed households receive benefits from at least one welfare program, compared to just 23 percent of households headed by U.S. natives. Among households with children, immigrant welfare households outnumbered non-immigrants by a similarly wide margin: 57 percent to 40 percent.

Welfare enrollment was highest for households headed by immigrants originating in Mexico, with 57 percent participation. Guatemalan immigrants were second, with 55 percent; those from the Dominican Republic were third, with 54 percent participation.

Immigrants with the lowest rate of welfare participation came to the United States from the United Kingdom, with just 6 percent accessing one or more welfare programs, Germany at 10 percent and Canada with 13 percent, according to the report.

The authors noted that compared with households headed by U.S. natives, twice as many headed by immigrants who have lived in the United States for more than 20 years access welfare programs.

Poverty among immigrants and their children, the report added, dwarfs the rate among American natives, by a 23 percent to 13.5 percent margin.

According to the study, immigrants and their children represent one-quarter of American residents in poverty. Their children are one-third of poverty-stricken children in the U.S. overall.

Additionally, immigrants in the U.S. are more likely than native residents to be without health insurance, with 29 percent of immigrants and their children uninsured, compared to 13.8 percent of those who were born in the United States.

The Center for Immigration Studies noted that limited education levels — not a failure to work or difficulties with legal status — is responsible for most of the high immigrant poverty rate. Fully 28 percent of immigrants have not completed high school, compared to just 7 percent of natives.

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