NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Welfare As A Benefit Of Citizenship

June 29, 1999

The number of immigrants who became citizens more than doubled in the year after welfare reform eliminated benefits for noncitizens, according to a GAO report.

  • Before welfare reform passed in 1996, about 400,000 immigrants became citizens annually -- a number which jumped to 1 million the following year.
  • In 1997, some 8.3 percent of the 927,338 immigrants the GAO studied received Supplemental Security Income benefits -- compared to only 2.4 percent of native Americans.
  • In California, 23.7 percent of new immigrants received Medicaid -- while only 8.2 percent of the native population received those benefits.
  • In New York, 4.7 percent of immigrants received temporary assistance for needy families -- versus 2.2 percent of native Americans.

New immigrants collected $735 million in welfare benefits in 1997. Those who became new citizens that year realized $328 million of that in Supplemental Security Income benefits -- or 40 percent of the total benefits paid to all those who have immigrated to this country since 1970.

Source: "Welfare Reform: Public Assistance Benefits Provided to Recently Naturalized Citizens," June 23, 1999, General Accounting Office, Washington, D.C.; Audrey Hudson, "Welfare Reform Expands Citizenry," Washington Times, June 29, 1999.


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