Senator Sessions and several colleagues report that only .068 percent of visa applicants were rejected last year based on their likelihood to become public charges (“primarily dependent on the government for subsistence”). This isn’t just due to the State Department’s notorious laxity when it comes to visas — State and DHS actually ignore virtually all welfare programs when considering dependency on the government, counting only SSI and TANF. This matters a lot when you consider that Medicaid is the biggest welfare program by far and 45 percent of families headed by a Mexican or Dominican immigrant use Medicaid. (See here for full details on immigrant use of welfare). Governor Romney’s 47 percent may have been an overstatement, but for immigrants overall not much of one: Thirty-six percent of households headed by a foreign-born person use at least one welfare program. And for immigrants from Latin America, Romney would have been understating the case — 51 percent are on welfare.
This despite the fact that excluding immigrants likely to become a burden on taxpayers is a doctrine that predates the United States, the first such immigration law having been enacted in Massachusetts in 1645. The real question is not why more than one-third of all immigrant-headed households in the United States are on welfare. Rather, we should ask why any immigrants are on welfare — if they’re such a boon, we do we have to subsidize them, Solyndra-style? And the policy response should not be the facile “immigration si, welfare no” formula of the libertarians; once you admit poor people to a modern society, taxpayers cannot avoid picking up the tab. The answer is to keep out people likely to use welfare. Which the Obama administration is intentionally failing to do, even though the law requires it.