They aren’t the drain on public services that the Trump administration makes them out to be.
A Supreme Court ruling on Monday allows the Trump administration to start denying green cards to immigrants who might become economic burdens on society. The justices said nothing about the merits of any policy change, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t assess them. So do most immigrants come here to work or to go on the dole?
One way to answer that question is to look at where migrants settle after arriving here. If they are coming for Medicaid and food stamps, you might expect them to head to states with the most generous benefits, such as New York and California. Yet according to a Brookings Institution analysis of census data, between 2010 and 2018 the five states with the fastest-growing foreign-born populations were North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Delaware and Iowa. New York ranks near the top in the nation in Medicaid spending per beneficiary, and South Dakota is at the bottom end. Nevertheless, the immigrant population in New York grew by just 3.5% during this period, while South Dakota’s rose by 58.2%.
Another way to get at what draws immigrants to the U.S. is to look at their employment numbers. In 2018 the percentage of U.S. workers born outside the country reached its highest level since 1996, yet their unemployment rate was 3.5%, versus 4% for the native-born. And the labor participation rate for immigrants was slightly higher than the rate for workers born here, 65.7% to 62.3%. A common fear is that immigrants are displacing U.S. workers, but the U.S. is experiencing record low unemployment and there are still over a million more job openings in the country than there are people looking for work.
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