The Heritage Foundation and Senator Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican and a perennial anti-immigration warrior, are trying hard to keep alive the mistaken belief that low-skilled immigrants strain America's welfare system. Sessions has repeatedly accused the Obama administration of “defying federal laws” and letting foreigners in without first showing they could support themselves, and the Heritage Foundation is preparing to release an updated version of a controversial study it did several years ago offering its own evidence of this claim.
But regardless of how much they spin the facts, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia in the Bloomberg View, the truth is that letting more poor, low- skilled foreigners won't overburden America's social-welfare system. In fact, it might do the opposite: Stretch it out a bit more because these immigrants consume less welfare than the native born and they reduce welfare use by the native born. She notes:
Restrictionists regard the 1990s as the decade of mass migration, when immigrants supposedly flooded in and threatened American jobs and wages. But the country had low unemployment during many of those years. More to the point, the size of the underclass shrank overall. While the number of immigrant households living in poverty increased by 194,000 from 1995 to 2004, the number of American households below the poverty line declined by 675,000.
This suggests that as foreigners moved into the lower class, they pushed more native-born people into the middle class.
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