Immigrants Actually Don't Get Handouts
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Politics and Activism

Immigrants Actually Don't Get Handouts

No, they are not society's "free-loaders".

Immigrants Actually Don't Get Handouts

The notion that immigrants get handouts seems paradoxical. Individuals and families that leave their homes, moving to a different country with a new culture, maybe even language, away from family, friends and traditions undergo a transformative experience that is draining in every sense of the word. How could government assistance ever make up for that kind of hardship? After months, maybe even years, of preparation, immigrants still meet obstacles, even after they’ve crossed the border.

Some conservatives seem to adhere to the belief that immigrants are thieving slackers like it’s a religion. Maybe this is less because of truth or evidence and more because of ease. It’s far easier to believe that the job market is so poor because of overwhelming numbers of immigrants accepting federal or state job assistance than it is to delve into the complexities of economics. It’s far easier to see reports on minorities and crimes and attribute this rise and coverage of crime to the idea that it is the minorities who are responsible for most crimes than to ask what media and racial dynamics could be at play. It’s a lot easier to look at the world and see it as it appears than to peel back the layers that make up the circumstances surrounding each event.

Below are some data and information regarding the "handouts" immigrants receive:

Currently, the H-1B visa program dictates how companies hire highly skilled immigrant workers. The jobs these immigrants take are temporary and require at the very least a bachelor’s degree, sometimes higher, as well as the knowledge necessary for the job. Not all of those who apply are awarded these visas, which are currently doled out on a first- come, first-served basis and a lottery system if the applicant number exceeds the cap on the number of visas that can be awarded. An important thing to note is that academic institutions, nonprofits, and government research programs do not have a cap on the number of H-1B visas they can give out. Another statistic is that these jobs are overwhelmingly given to people of Indian heritage, not Mexican descent as many tend to believe. The thing about this program is that these immigrants do need to be qualified in order to receive a job offer. They aren't lounging around expecting a high-paying job to fall into their laps--they work for it.

As far as unauthorized immigrant workers go, they only make up about 5% of the workforce and can typically be found in farming or construction jobs. It would be a lie to say that even in these industries, they’re outnumbering Americans because it’s simply not true. In fact, immigrants don’t outnumber American workers in any industry in the US at all. In addition, the number of illegal immigrants in the workforce is not on the rise— it’s actually pretty stable.

The numbers pretty clearly demonstrate that immigrants are not “stealing” jobs they’re unqualified for or even ousting Americans within any industry. But the fact remains that a large number of immigrant families (51% of immigrant households in 2012) do use some form of welfare provided by the government. But the reason for this is not because immigrants aren’t working; rather, it’s the fact that unskilled immigrants are restricted to lower paying jobs while also having children to support. However, it’s mainly legal immigrants that benefit from these systems. Furthermore, immigrants, legal or otherwise, are not permitted access to welfare programs when they first arrive in the US unless as part of specific state programs. Typically they need to reside in the US for a number of years and show that they are trying to work and support their families.

Yes, there are state and government funded programs to assist immigrants. No, there are no welcome parties complete with an “I <3 USA” t-shirt and full-time jobs neatly wrapped in bows presented to immigrants and their families upon arrival. No, immigrants do not come here expecting a free ride and no, they do not get free rides off of our tax dollars. Immigrants come to the US for the opportunity to work. They come here to contribute to the economy and culture of this country. It might be easier to believe that they don't have the interest of other Americans at heart, but really, the goal of any immigrant is probably pretty similar to yours: to lead a successful life.

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