Just how much do non-U. S. citizens cost the rest of the country? Plenty, if you believe census data looking at welfare and the uninsured in America. Those data show that noncitizens are almost twice as likely to get welfare benefits, and more than three times as likely to be uninsured.
Recently, the Center for Immigration Studies poured through Census poverty and welfare data and found that a shockingly high percentage of noncitizens are getting some sort of welfare benefit from the federal government.
The report found, for example, that 45% of households headed by a noncitizen reported using food programs in 2014. That’s the latest year for which such census data are available. That compares with 21% for U.S. citizens. Half of noncitizen households reported using Medicaid, compared with 23% for citizens.
The CIS analysis also found that 31% of noncitizen households got cash benefits, when you include the Earned Income Tax Credit. That compares with 10% for citizen-headed households.
Overall, 63% of noncitizen-headed households got some form of welfare benefit in 2014, compared with 35% for citizens.
"The data show that, overall, noncitizen households access the welfare system at high rates, often receiving benefits on behalf of U.S.-born children," said authors Steven Camarota and Karen Zeigler.
In case you doubt CIS’s numbers because it backs limits on immigration, consider that a 2017 published study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine also found that immigrants were far more likely to access welfare than native-born Americans.
In September, the Department of Homeland Security issued a proposed rule designed to reduce the use of welfare by noncitizens. The rule would deny immigrants permanent residency if they receive welfare benefits.
"This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers," DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said at the time.
But welfare is only part of the picture.
Noncitizens are also far more likely to be uninsured than either native-born Americans or naturalized citizens.
Census data show that in 2017 the uninsured rate among noncitizens was a whopping 24%. That compares with 7.5% for native-born and 8.9% for naturalized citizens.
Looked at another way, of the 28.5 million uninsured in 2017, almost 6 million were noncitizens.
In other words, while noncitizens comprise only 7% of the U.S. population, they account for 20% of the uninsured.
In The ER
Many of these folks will end up in hospital emergency rooms when they need health care. The law requires ERs to provide care regardless of ability to pay or citizenship status. Hospitals pass the costs of unpaid ER bills on to everyone else.
Apparently, nobody has tried to calculate just how much noncitizens cost the health care system. But the costs aren’t negligible.
For example, a couple of years ago The Wall Street Journal looked at what happened in Arizona after the number of illegal immigrant workers in the state dropped 40% from 2007 to 2013.
"During that same period," it reported, "annual emergency-room spending on noncitizens fell 37% to $106 million, from $167 million."
Federal Health Centers
What’s more, the federal Health Resources and Services Administration funds some 1,400 "federally qualified health centers" and migrant health centers. These provide care to "vulnerable populations," regardless of immigration status. Last year, the government spent more than $5 billion on those centers.
Yet, whenever the topic turns to the uninsured or health care costs, the discussion typically ignores the contribution of noncitizens to these problems.
The U.S. is a wealthy and generous nation. Even so, there’s an important question that needs an answer. Is it fair for hardworking Americans to pay billions of dollars in benefits to those who aren’t U.S. citizens, or worse, are here illegally?
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