Research Papers On Denying Public Aid To Illegal Immigrants

Former Republican powerbroker Tom DeLay recently raised alarm about Houston "illegal immigrants" taking advantage of tax-funded benefits.

DeLay, seated in what looked like a comfortable spot, took split-screen questions from MSNBC’s Kate Snow--both of them not quite getting facts straight.

DeLay initially agreed in the Sept. 1, 2016, interview that "deportations are up" under President Barack Obama. Deportations hit a record high under Obama in 2013. However, the counts have since come down.

The former U.S. House majority leader once known as the Hammer went on to say the flow of illegal immigrants also has gone way up--a claim that as of that month wasn’t reflective of border-area apprehensions by the Border Patrol.

"I mean, right here in Houston, Texas," DeLay said, "you can go three blocks from here and you have apartment complexes after apartment complexes packed full with illegal immigrants." He shortly added: "Most of these illegals are drawing welfare benefits, they’re sending their kids to school, they’re using the public services. Many of them are paying taxes, I grant you that. But the impact," he said, "is monumental."

DeLay’s comments fell in stride with a hot topic of the 2016 presidential race--the impact of unauthorized immigrants. Monumental or not, we wondered if he was right about government-funded benefits drawn by such residents.

Some relevant recent fact checks:

--In August 2016, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s claim there could be up to 30 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. came out Pants on Fire; the U.S. government and independent think tanks put the figure between 11 and 12 million.

--The same day, Trump said unauthorized immigration costs more than $113 billion annually from federal, state and local coffers. That’s Mostly False, PolitiFact found, in that Trump cited the highest of all estimates from a range that varied widely, and excluded data on unauthorized immigrant tax payments.

--The month before, we found Half True a claim by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton that unauthorized immigrants annually pay $12 billion into Social Security. That amount was paid jointly by unauthorized immigrants and their employers.

DeLay offers no backup

DeLay, who resigned as majority leader in 2005 after his indictment on Texas campaign finance charges (his subsequent conviction was ultimately overturned), gave us a lot to consider, starting with what he had in mind in mentioning nearby apartment complexes rife with "illegal immigrants."

For a moment, we contemplated a field trip to see for ourselves, an option that fizzled after DeLay didn’t provide backup information; when we reached him by phone, the line went dead. Dani DeLay Garcia, his daughter who sometimes serves as his spokeswoman, told us by email that he wouldn’t be elaborating.

Public schools and paying taxes

For our part, we recognized that DeLay was correct about public schools serving children regardless of immigration status. In 2013, we found True a claim that the U.S Supreme Court had decided in 1982 that non-citizen children must get free public schooling through the 12th grade.

Unauthorized immigrants also pay taxes, as DeLay said.

Tanya Broder, a staff attorney for the National Immigration Law Center, said by phone that "undocumented immigrants have the same tax obligations as any other resident." Broder emailed a 2015 report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think tank, which drew on its analysis of state tax laws to estimate that unauthorized immigrants in Texas in 2012 paid about $1.5 billion in state and local sales and property taxes. Earlier, a 2006 report from the Texas state comptroller, applying Pew Research Center population research and comptroller tax models, estimated that unauthorized immigrants in Texas in 2005 paid $1.58 billion in state and local taxes.

We focused next on whether unauthorized immigrants draw welfare and tap other public services.

Welfare benefits

The federal government hasn’t distributed welfare checks to eligible people in poverty for around 20 years; that approach was replaced in the late 1990s by targeted aid programs jointly administered by the federal and state governments that provide assistance with cash, food, housing and health care. That act, the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, also barred unauthorized immigrants from drawing benefits.

Title IV of the act, subheaded "restricting welfare and public benefits for aliens," states that "aliens who are not qualified aliens" are ineligible for "federal public benefits" and for "state and local public benefits." The act defines qualified aliens as people with certain legal documented immigration status, meaning unauthorized immigrants are not eligible.

We confirmed from eligibility rules posted on government websites that unauthorized immigrants aren’t eligible for major aid programs including Medicaid, the joint federal-state health coverage for people in poverty; Supplemental Security Income (SSI), which provides cash assistance to the impoverished elderly or disabled; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which used to be food stamps; housing assistance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), which provides grants for state-administered family assistance programs like child care, cash assistance or counseling. 

Separately, Broder and Randy Capps of the Migration Policy Institute, a think tank that believes in the benefits of well-managed immigration, each told us federal welfare benefits aren’t available to unauthorized immigrants.

By phone, Jack Martin, author of reports on unauthorized immigrants in Texas for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates tighter immigration controls, put it this way: "Illegal aliens are not eligible directly for welfare assistance" though, he said, parents living in the country without permission can sign up qualified children for aid.

All U.S.-born children are automatically U.S. citizens, even if born to unauthorized immigrants--and Martin was correct, we found, in that Medicaid eligibility rules specify that unauthorized immigrants "may apply for coverage on behalf of documented individuals." Eligibility rules for SNAP say that a person who is ineligible because of immigration status "may choose to apply only for his or her U.S. citizen children in the household."

On the other hand, Broder said, certain federal benefits are available to children regardless of residency status: the Child and Adult Care Food Program, which provides food aid to care centers for low income children, elderly or disabled adults; the National School Lunchand Breakfast Program, which subsidizes in-school meals for children from low income families; and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which provides nutritional supplements and health education for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and their infants up to five years old who are deemed "at nutrition risk" by a doctor.

Capps agreed those programs are open to unauthorized immigrants but said they’re "programs that I wouldn’t consider welfare." Case said the basic nutrition programs qualified as public health spending. Regarding the school lunch program he said: "I wouldn’t consider it welfare the same way I wouldn’t consider public schools welfare."

Public services

Finally, we found validity to DeLay’s assertion that unauthorized immigrants use "public services."

Capps said there were state-administered public health services available to residents regardless of immigration status while Alex Nowrasteh, an analyst for the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, nudged us afresh to the 2006 report from the Texas state comptroller.

That report, "Undocumented Immigrants in Texas: a financial analysis of the impact to the state budget and economy," listed nine publicly-funded programs for which unauthorized immigrants in Texas were eligible--public schools plus eight health care programs: emergency medical care for indigent residents; Children with Special Health Care Needs; substance abuse services; mental health services; immunizations; Women’s and Children’s Health Services; public health programs; and emergency medical services such as ambulances.

We wondered if the listed programs continue to be open to anyone regardless of immigration status. Seems so; agency-posted eligibility requirements do not say beneficiaries must be legal U.S. residents.

SOURCE: Report, "Undocumented immigrants in Texas: a financial analysis of the impact to the state budget and economy," Texas state comptroller Carole Strayhorn, December 2006

In 2005, the report estimated, Texas spent about $58 million caring for unauthorized immigrants through the eight programs--compared to $57.8 billion in total state spending that year.

Health Care

As the largest health-related service used by unauthorized immigrants, the comptroller identified indigent care at public hospitals.

The Texas Indigent Health Care and Treatment Act of 1989 requires Texas counties to fund stabilizing health services for indigent people without insurance. According to the act, county hospitals, public hospitals and hospital districts must admit anyone who earns 21 percent or less of the federal poverty level. That includes unauthorized immigrants, who the comptroller estimated drew $1.3 billion in such services in 2004.

The services required under the 1989 act include: "primary and preventative services," inpatient and outpatient hospital services, rural health clinics, laboratory and X-ray services, family planning, physician services, payment for up to three prescription drugs and "skilled nursing facility services."

We found specifics in a 2010 report from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission titled "Report on services and benefits provided to undocumented immigrants." The report listed uncompensated costs incurred at each Texas public hospital in 2008, plus the estimated share of that cost "attributable" to unauthorized immigrants. The report estimated that between two and 22 percent of uncompensated costs are attributable to unauthorized immigrants at each of 99 public hospitals statewide, totaling about $717 million in 2008.  

Our ruling

DeLay said most illegal immigrants draw "welfare benefits, they’re sending their kids to school, they’re using the public services."

People living in the U.S. without authorization indeed draw on public services including government-supported hospitals. Also, children of all origins attend public schools.

But counter to DeLay’s prime point, adults lacking legal residency are barred by law from government programs that fit the "welfare" category. Parents still may seek benefits, though, for their child-citizens.

All told, we rate this claim Half True.


HALF TRUE– The statement is partially accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context. Click here formore on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/b69dcb57-6c15-48a7-9787-bcf169f7d9ea


Topic:
STATE AID; IMMIGRATION; FEDERAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS; ALIENS;
Location:
IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION; STATE AID;


May 19, 2005

 

2005-R-0462

STATE PROGRAM ACCESS FOR NON-CITIZENS

By: Helga Niesz, Principal Analyst

You asked which state programs are open to (1) only U.S. citizens, (2) legal immigrants, or (3) illegal aliens.

The Office of Legislative Research is not authorized to give legal opinions and the following should not be considered one.

State programs are generally available to legal residents of Connecticut. Some require an applicant to have lived in Connecticut for a specified period of time (usually six months or a year), but others only require that the person be a resident of the state and meet whatever other qualifications the program sets. Thus, legal immigrants can often be eligible to the same extent as U.S. citizens.

But since 1996, federal law has prohibited certain legal immigrants who were previously eligible from participating in most federally funded, means-tested programs. To qualify for the federally funded programs now, they generally must (1) be permanent U.S. residents who were in the U.S. on August 22, 1996, (2) have been here for five years if they arrived after that date, or (3) meet other exception criteria.

Connecticut currently limits its federally funded welfare programs to the groups the federal government allows, but it also provides legal immigrants now denied assistance under those programs with equivalent help under purely state-funded programs.

Illegal aliens are not usually eligible for state assistance programs, with limited exceptions such as emergency medical care and public school attendance. But some programs do not differentiate based on immigration status.

BACKGROUND — FEDERAL LAW AND QUALIFIED ALIENS

Federal welfare reform legislation in 1996 required most legal immigrants arriving after August 22, 1996 to be in the U.S. for at least five years before they could become eligible for “federal means-tested benefits,” including programs where the federal government and the states share the costs (P.L. 104-193). This law did not define federal means-tested benefits, but federal agencies subsequently decided that the term includes Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (known as Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) in Connecticut), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds (which fund HUSKY B in Connecticut), and Food Stamps.

The federal law restricted access to these programs by creating a more limited definition of “qualified alien” than prior law. Now, a "qualified alien" is one who is lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence (a green card holder), a refugee, an asylee, one who has been paroled into the U.S. for a period of one year or whose deportation has been withheld, one who has been granted conditional entry to the U.S., certain battered immigrants, and other limited groups specified in the federal law.

The 1996 change excluded some previously-eligible groups such as people who had been residing in the U.S. under color of law (PRUCOLs). PRUCOL generally described immigrants whom the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) knew were in the U.S., but whom the INS decided not to take steps to deport or remove. PRUCOL has not been a formalimmigration status since 1996. This is one of the groups denied access to federal programs that state immigrant programs are aimed at.

While most new “qualified aliens” now have to wait five years before being eligible for federal means-tested programs, certain groups such as asylees, refugees, Cuban or Haitian entrants, people whose deportation is withheld, and Amerasian immigrants are eligible right away, but for some programs only for the first seven years after entry to the U.S. Hmong/Highland Laotians and American Indians born in Canada are also eligible for these programs without the five-year wait. Legal aliens who are veterans or active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their dependents also do not have to wait the five years.

But the federal law allows states to create their own purely state-funded programs for legal aliens who are denied benefits under the federally funded programs. Many states, including Connecticut, have done so.

CONNECTICUT LEGAL ALIEN PROGRAMS

Connecticut allows legal immigrants who are “qualified aliens” under federal law to participate in its federal-state funded programs to the extent allowed under the federal law (CGS § 17b-257a). It also created state-funded programs specifically for legal aliens who are denied benefits under these programs, which are equivalents to Temporary Family Assistance, HUSKY B, Food Stamps, and Medicaid (known as the State Medical Assistance to Non-Citizens (SMANC) program. Legal aliens residing in Connecticut are also eligible for the state-funded State-Administered General Assistance (SAGA) cash and SAGA medical assistance, the Connecticut Pharmaceutical Contract to the Elderly and Disabled (ConnPACE) program, elderly homeowners' and renter's tax relief (“circuit breaker”) programs, and some other state-funded programs or services to the same extent as U.S. citizens who are Connecticut residents. In some situations, the state will count some of the income from the alien's sponsor in determining program eligibility (called “deeming”). (CGS §§17b-112c, 17b-790a , 17b-257b, 17b-342. 17b-490)

Federal law denies virtually all federally funded public benefits to illegal aliens (except for emergency medical care and certain other limited services).

In general, illegal (undocumented) aliens are not allowed to work in the U.S, or obtain social security numbers or driver's licenses. But their children can attend public schools and participate in the federally funded reduced price school lunch, breakfast, and after school snack programs.

Illegal aliens are generally eligible for Medicaid coverage only for emergency medical services, including emergency room, critical, and intensive care. A very small state program, State Medical Assistance for

Illegal Immigrants (which currently has only one participant) provides nursing home care when the state would otherwise have to continue to pay more expensive hospital charges for an illegal alien under Medicaid.

Table 1 below describes eligibility for state programs based on citizenship or immigration status, including prominent programs that receive both state and federal funds, such as TFA and Medicaid. If programs do not differentiate between qualified aliens and other legal aliens (as Medicaid does), we have indicated “yes” to both. A few purely state-funded programs have a residency durational requirement. The table deals only with programs at state agencies that responded to our questions.

See OLR Report 2004-R-0181, enclosed, for a discussion of entry to state public colleges and higher education institutions.

Also enclosed is a chart on Non-Citizen Eligibility that DSS uses to train its employees and a 2004 Connecticut Attorney General's opinion (2004-002) that discusses equal protection issues related to the closure of state's legal immigrant programs to new applicants in 2003 (they were re-opened in 2004).

Table 1: State Program Access for U.S. Citizens, Legal Aliens, and Illegal Aliens

Program Name

U.S. Citizens

Federally Qualified Aliens

Other Legal Aliens not qualified for federally funded programs (including former PRUCOLs)

Illegal Aliens

Temporary Family Assistance (TFA)

Yes (Y)

Y (after 5 yrs for post-1996 legal entrants to U.S.)

No (N)

N

State-funded TFA

N

Y (for those who do not qualify for regular TFA)

Y (after 6 months residency in CT for those arriving in U.S. after 4/1/98)

N

Food Stamps

Y

Y (after 5 yrs, but no exclusion period for those who (a) were over age 65 and lived in U.S. in 1996, (b) worked in the U.S. for 40 quarters,(c) are receiving federal disability benefits, or (d) are children)

N

N

State-funded Food Stamps for Non-Citizens

N

Y (if they do not qualify for federally funded program)

Y after 6 months for those entering U.S. after 4/1/98 (former PRUCOLs excluded)

N

SAGA cash assistance

Y

Y

Y

N

SAGA medical assistance

Y

Y (if not eligible for Medicaid - see SMANC below)

Y (see SMANC below)

N

Medicaid –HUSKY A (TFA and low-income families and children up to 185% of poverty level)

Y

Y (after 5 years for post-1996 legal entrants to U.S.)

N (emergency services only – but see SMANC below)

N (emergency services only)

Medicaid – Aged, Blind and Disabled

Y

Y (after 5 years for post-1996 legal entrants to U.S.)

N (emergency services only – but see SMANC below)

N (emergency services only)

HUSKY B (uses state and federal funds)

Y

Y (after 5 years for post-1996 legal entrants to U.S.)

Y (using state funds only)

N

State Medical Assistance for Non-Citizens (SMANC)

N

Y (if denied federally funded benefits)

Y

N

State Supplement Program (SSP) – Old Age Assistance

Y

Y (if receiving federal SSI, was receiving it pre-1996, entered U.S.pre-1996, or has worked in U.S. for 40 quarters

N

N

Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders (CHCPE)

Y

Y (after 5 years for post-1996 legal entrants to U.S. for Medicaid funded)

Y (state funds only)

N

Medicaid Personal Care Assistance Waiver for disabled people ages 18-64

Y

Y

N

N

ConnPACE (6 month state residency required for all applicants)

Y

Y

Y

N “Resident” is defined for this program as someone legally domiciled in the state for the required time – 6 months (183 days) (CGS § 17b-490 (d))

State-assisted Elderly Housing

Y

Y

Y

N

State-assisted Elderly Congregate Housing

Y

Y

Y

N

DSS Rental Assistance Program

Y

Y

Y

N

Energy Assistance Programs

Y

Y

Y

N

Elderly nutrition – meals on wheels (uses federal and state funding but not required to differentiate based on immigration status)

Y

Y

Y

Y

Circuit Breaker Elderly Property Tax Relief (Homeowners and Renters) (all applicants must have owned and lived in the home as principal residence at least 6 months and one day for homeowners; one-year state residency for renters)

Y

Y

Y

Y (Program does not specifically differentiate, but applicant must provide tax returns and social security income records)

Child Care Subsidy Program (eligibility based on child's citizenship/immigration status, not parents')*

Y

Y

N

N

Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (provide services for anyone legally able to work)

Y

Y

Y

N

School Readiness Program

Y

Y

Y

Y

State College Student Financial Aid

Y

Y

Y

N

DMR Programs**

Y

Y

Y

Y

DMHAS Programs **

Y

Y

Y

Y

Board of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) services

Y (citizens-only for BESB Business Enterprises Program)

Y

Y

N

Community Economic Development Fund

Y

Y

Y

N

Energy Conservation Loan Fund

Y

Y

Y

N

Veteran Property Tax Exemptions

Y

Y

Y

N

Health Reinsurance Association plans (the state's high-risk insurance pool)

Y

Y

Y

N

* Child Care Subsidy Program (CareforKids) uses both state and federal funds and federal rules require them to follow federal TANF rules even for state funds they use to fulfill federal “maintenance of effort” requirements.

** DMR and DMHAS serve all people residing in Connecticut who meet eligibility criteria, regardless of citizenship/immigration status, but follow federal rules where Medicaid covers services.

HN:ro

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