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Immigrants and Welfare

The Impact of Welfare Reform on America's Newcomers

Michael E. FIx

Publication Year: 2011

The lore of the immigrant who comes to the United States to take advantage of our welfare system has a long history in America’s collective mythology, but it has little basis in fact. The so-called problem of immigrants on the dole was nonetheless a major concern of the 1996 welfare reform law, the impact of which is still playing out today. While legal immigrants continue to pay taxes and are eligible for the draft, welfare reform has severely limited their access to government supports in times of crisis. Edited by Michael Fix, Immigrants and Welfare rigorously assesses the welfare reform law, questions whether its immigrant provisions were ever really necessary, and examines its impact on legal immigrants’ ability to integrate into American society. Immigrants and Welfare draws on fields from demography and law to developmental psychology. The first part of the volume probes the politics behind the welfare reform law, its legal underpinnings, and what it may mean for integration policy. Contributor Ron Haskins makes a case for welfare reform’s ultimate success but cautions that excluding noncitizen children (future workers) from benefits today will inevitably have serious repercussions for the American economy down the road. Michael Wishnie describes the implications of the law for equal protection of immigrants under the U.S. Constitution. The second part of the book focuses on empirical research regarding immigrants’ propensity to use benefits before the law passed, and immigrants’ use and hardship levels afterwards. Jennifer Van Hook and Frank Bean analyze immigrants’ benefit use before the law was passed in order to address the contested sociological theories that immigrants are inclined to welfare use and that it slows their assimilation. Randy Capps, Michael Fix, and Everett Henderson track trends before and after welfare reform in legal immigrants’ use of the major federal benefit programs affected by the law. Leighton Ku looks specifically at trends in food stamps and Medicaid use among noncitizen children and adults and documents the declining health insurance coverage of noncitizen parents and children. Finally, Ariel Kalil and Danielle Crosby use longitudinal data from Chicago to examine the health of children in immigrant families that left welfare. Even though few states took the federal government’s invitation with the 1996 welfare reform law to completely freeze legal immigrants out of the social safety net, many of the law’s most far-reaching provisions remain in place and have significant implications for immigrants. Immigrants and Welfare takes a balanced look at the politics and history of immigrant access to safety-net supports and the ongoing impacts of welfare.

Published by: Russell Sage Foundation

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-viii

I gratefully acknowledge the support for the conference and this volume provided by the Russell Sage Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and the Foundation for Child Development. I would like to thank three discussants for their penetrating commentary on the papers presented at the conference: Alexander ...

About the Authors

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pp. ix-x

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Chapter 1. Immigrants and Welfare:Overview

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pp. 1-36

On August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the landmark Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) that with much fanfare eliminated welfare as an entitlement, imposed time limits on public assistance, mandated that welfare beneficiaries work, and substantially increased state authority ...

Part I. Political and Legal Context

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Chapter 2. Limiting Welfare Benefits for Noncitizens: Emergence of Compromises

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pp. 39-68

The1996 Welfare reform law—the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act—changed almost every aspect of noncitizen eligibility for welfare benefits, especially by limiting their access to benefits. My goal in this chapter is to review the reform policies and their origins, to consider the arguments ...

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Chapter 3. Welfare Reform after a Decade: Integration, Exclusion, and Immigration Federalism

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pp. 69-90

The Alienage Restrictions of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) raised one principal constitutional question: does a state’s choice to deny lawful permanent residents (LPRs) the same welfare benefits it provides to citizens, where Congress has authorized but not required ...

Part II. Trends in Benefit Use and Reform’s Impacts

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Chapter 4. Immigrant Welfare Receipt: Implications for Immigrant Settlement and Integration

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pp. 93-122

The reception that newcomers face in host societies shapes the nature and degree of immigrant incorporation (Bloemraad 2006; Portes and Rumbaut 2001). Recent research, for example, has found that more favorable and welcoming social contexts increase the probability of naturalization (Van Hook, Brown, and ...

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Chapter 5. Trends in Immigrants’ Use of Public Assistance after Welfare Reform

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pp. 123-152

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) significantly changed the eligibility of legal immigrants for means-tested federal public assistance (Public Law 104-193). Twelve years after the law was enacted, ample evidence shows that the use of these assistance programs has declined ...

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Chapter 6. Changes in Immigrants’ Use of Medicaid and Food Stamps: The Role of Eligibility and Other Factors

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pp. 153-192

Congress restricted the eligibility of legal immigrants for means-tested benefits by passing two laws in 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). These changes were designed to limit the use of...

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Chapter 7. Welfare-Leaving and Child Health and Behavior in Immigrant and Native Families

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pp. 193-228

Children of immigrants are the fastest-growing segment of the child population. Although immigrants make up less than 13 percent of the total population, their children make up 22 percent of the total child population and 30 percent of the low-income child population in the United States.1 Research indicating ...


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pp. 229-233

E-ISBN-13: 9781610447607
Print-ISBN-13: 9780871544674

Page Count: 244
Publication Year: 2011