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Immigrant and Native Consumption of Means-Tested Welfare and Entitlement Benefits in 2019

March 30, 2022

Total government spending on the welfare state amounted to about $2.5 trillion in 2019. The federal government spent roughly $2.3 trillion in that year, an amount equal to approximately 51 percent of all federal outlays. About $1.7 trillion of federal expenditures went to Social Security and Medicare, and the other roughly $534 billion funded means‐tested welfare benefits. American states spent an additional $244 billion on means‐tested welfare programs in 2019. Based on data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we find that immigrants consume 28 percent less welfare and entitlement benefits than native‐born Americans on a per capita basis. By comparison, immigrants consumed 21 percent less welfare and entitlement benefits in 2016 on a per capita basis. From 2016 to 2019, the underconsumption of welfare by immigrants relative to native‐born Americans widened by about 7 percentage points.

The Most Common Arguments Against Immigration and Why They’re Wrong

September 27, 2021

From "immigrants are going to take American jobs" to "they're going to commit crimes" or "they won't learn English," we've heard it all. This report by the CATO Institute's Alex Nowrasteh contains the 15 most common arguments against immigration and Nowrasteh's responses to them. From economics to crime, terrorism, cultural assimilation, and the voting habits of immigrants, he considers the most common arguments against immigration and rejects them using sound reasoning and evidence.

A Brief History of U.S. Immigration Policy from the Colonial Period to the Present Day

August 3, 2021

More than 86 million people have legally immigrated to the United States between 1783 and 2019. The legal regime under which they immigrated has changed radically over that time; the politics surrounding those changes have remained contentious, and past immigration policies inform the current political debate. Conflicting visions and piecemeal legislation have left the United States with an archaic and barely coherent immigration system with outdated policy objectives that is primarily controlled by the executive branch of government. We review the history of U.S. immigration policy, including the legal controversies that empowered Congress with its immigration plenary power and the historical policy decisions that still guide the U.S. immigration system, in order to contextualize the current political debate over immigration at the beginning of the Biden administration.

Incarcerated Immigrants in 2016: Their Numbers, Demographics, and Countries of Origin

June 4, 2018

This brief uses American Community Survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze incarcerated immigrants according to their citizenship and legal status for 2016. The data show that all immigrants—legal and illegal—are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born Americans relative to their shares of the population.

Immigration and the Welfare State: Immigrant and Native Use Rates and Benefit Levels for Means-Tested Welfare and Entitlement Programs

May 10, 2018

Overall, immigrants are less likely to consume welfare benefits and, when they do, they generally consume a lower dollar value of benefits than native-born Americans. This appears contrary to the study conducted by the CIS (Publication 3), but Cato claims its work is more accurate because it examines individuals with immigration status, while CIS measures welfare use by households headed by immigrants (which often contain multiple native-born Americans).

Do Immigration Enforcement Programs Reduce Crime? Evidence from the 287(g) Program in North Carolina

April 11, 2018

This paper examines 287(g)'s implementation across multiple counties in North Carolina and identifies its impact on local crime rates and police clearance rates by exploiting time variation in regional immigration enforcement trends. The 287(g) program did not affect the crime rate in North Carolina or police clearance rates but it did boost the number of assaults against police officers.

Criminal Immigrants in Texas: Illegal Immigrant Conviction and Arrest Rates for Homicide, Sexual Assault, Larceny, and Other Crimes

February 26, 2018

This brief uses Texas Department of Public Safety data to measure the conviction and arrest rates of illegal immigrants by crime. In Texas in 2015, the criminal conviction and arrest rates for immigrants were well below those of native-born Americans. Moreover, the conviction and arrest rates for illegal immigrants were lower than those for native-born Americans. This result holds for most crimes.

Immigrants Assimilate into the Political Mainstream

January 19, 2017

This report separates immigrant political and policy opinions by citizenship status. Noncitizen immigrants cannot vote but their political opinions are mostly similar to those of natives. However, naturalized citizen-immigrants who can vote have political opinions even closer to those of natives and are near-fully assimilated into the political mainstream.

Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis

September 13, 2016

This report attempts to analyze the likelihood of an American perishing in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil committed by a variety of foreign-born classifications (tourist, refugee, illegal immigrant, etc.).

Does Immigration Impact Institutions?

May 6, 2014

This paper empirically examines how immigration impacts a nation's policies and institutions and finds no evidence of negative and some evidence of positive impacts in institutional quality as a result of immigration.

How to Make Guest Worker Visas Work

January 31, 2013

President Obama and a bipartisan group of eight senators have begun to push for immigration reform. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) likewise said he supports an immigration overhaul as a "top priority" for 2013. The Texas Republican Party even called for an expanded and effective guest worker visa program to link American employers with skilled and low-skilled foreign workers. The three components of politically feasible immigration reform are legalization for some unauthorized immigrants, border and workplace enforcement to impede the entry and hiring of unauthorized immigrants, and increased numbers of guest workers and legal immigrants. The costs and benefits of legalization, security, and employee verification have been debated elsewhere in detail but the costs and benefits of guest worker visas and how to create them have not been similarly explored. An expanded and lightly regulated guest worker visa program is an essential part of any immigration reform proposal. A guest worker visa program should efficiently link foreign workers with American employers and function with a minimum of government interference. Market forces as well as security, criminal, and health concerns should be the factors that determine which workers acquire visas. A successful guest worker visa would also divert most unauthorized immigration into the legal system, shrink the informal economy, be easily enforceable, support economic growth in the United States, and narrow the government's role in immigration. Below are numerous suggestions that would achieve such reform and expand America's current guest worker visa programs.