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“Anyone can obtain the American Dream.”

This is the common mantra that permeates the mainstream narrative regarding immigration. The assertion seems to be that you can take any person from anywhere in the world, living in any conditions and transport them in the United States… and just like that, a “New American” is created. Furthermore, the theory claims this “new American” will be just like every other native-born citizen. This mindset is based on the notion that no matter where immigrants come from, no matter what skills they bring with them, no matter what circumstances they find themselves in upon arrival, their children and grandchildren will supposedly converge to the socioeconomic level of the pre-existing population.

We are told by politicians and academics alike that the magic soil of the United States is an equalizer for all. It is almost as though it is thought that Americans from European dissent are simply placeholders. We are just filling in the space until others arrive to walk on our magical soil and obtain the same successes that we have obtained over the years.

GAO-11-187 Criminal Alien Statistics: Information on Incarcerations, Arrests, and Costs

Despite that many hope for full assimilation of migrants from developing countries, the convergence is often incomplete. The numbers illustrate a counter narrative to the idea that simply changing the environment that an individual lives in can drastically change the outcome of their future. If this were true it would be fantastic for all involved. What a gift it would be if we could just bring people into new places that those places would make the people. However, the data seems to indicate the opposite is true: it is not the place that makes the people, it is the people that makes the place.

In studies released by the Department of Justice, the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), as well as the Center for Immigration Studies we see that even two generations after the initial arrival of immigrants and refugees the academic and financial success is not equal to those from native-born families, and the need for government assistance is still present at higher rates per capita than natives. These illustrates that perhaps there might be more to being an American than the soil one stands on.

Academic and financial success of native versus non-natives two generations removed:
The Center for Immigration Studies completed a recent study that demonstrated the differences in academic and financial achievement in the native and non-native population. The study was completed using the NLSY-97, a survey of people born between 1980 and 1984 that includes their grandparents’ places of birth. The grandparent information allowed the researchers to identify a true “third generation,” meaning U.S.-born people who have two U.S.-born parents but at least one foreign-born grandparent. Because the largest and most consistently low-skill immigrant group has come from Mexico, the report compared the grandchildren of Mexican immigrants to a reference group of white Americans from the “fourth-plus generation” – meaning U.S. born with two U.S.-born parents and four U.S.-born grandparents. The results indicated that Americans with at least one Mexican-born grandparent lag significantly behind on measures of education and income. In other words, even with all of the resources and opportunities offered to this initially low skilled group, assimilation is still not complete by the third generation. Furthermore, when compared to natives of similar socio-economic status, even when both groups were offered the same opportunities and environments the outcome for those with at least one non-native born grandparent was significantly lower in both education completed and income earned.

Differential levels of assimilation are also evident when comparing the grandchildren of immigrant groups who arrived in the same time period. After the U.S. and Mexico, the most common grandparent place of birth in the NLSY-97 is Europe. (Unfortunately, no specific countries in Europe are identified in the data.) This post provides the results of a new analysis comparing two third-generation groups — the grandchildren of immigrants from Mexico, and the grandchildren of immigrants from Europe.

Study Dynamics

   Group 1:                                                                                     

Consisted of subjects who had grandparents of Mexican dissent  who had migrated to the US from Mexico

Group 2:

Consisted of subjects who had grandparents of European dissent who had migrated to the US from Mexico

  • Both groups of the subjects had at least one parent who had both been raised in the US by the migrant families.
  • The subjects were all born between the years 1980-1984 and raised in the US                                                                                     

Based on parental data from the NLSY-97 and year-of-arrival data from the 1970 census, most grandparents of the NLSY-97’s European third generation arrived in the U.S. between 1910 and 1950. Unlike Mexican immigrants, who were almost uniformly low-skill, European immigrants in that time frame were more mixed. They include largely low-skill Southern and Eastern European immigrants who arrived before the 1924 restriction, but also some educated refugees from Central Europe during the pre-war period, along with both skilled and unskilled immigrants from the post-war era.

The table below compares the grandchildren of Mexican immigrants and the grandchildren of European immigrants on measures of educational attainment, test scores, work time, and income. Although the two groups graduated from high school at about the same rate, the grandchildren of European immigrants have more than double the rate of college completion. They also scored higher on the AFQT, which the military uses to assess math and verbal skills. Similarly, although weeks worked are roughly equivalent for both groups, the grandchildren of European immigrants significantly out-earn their counterparts with Mexican-born grandparents

The numbers illustrate that even when comparing the generational outcomes of low skilled migrants from Europe to those from Mexico the European migrants were still more than marginally better off three generations later.

Non-Native versus Native participation in crime:

It is not only financial and academic assimilation that is a struggle for multiple generations of migrants. It appears that the data illustrates migrants, even those who are generations removed, struggle with participation in crime.  A recent study from the Department of Justice admitted that one out of every five inmates in an American prison is a non-native born individual.

A. Immigration Status of Known or Suspected Aliens in BOP Custody

  • As of December 30, 2017, a total of 38,132 known or suspected aliens were in BOP custody (approximately 21 percent of the 183,058 total individuals in BOP custody on that date).

 Keeping in line with the focus group, further research indicates that of those one in five, 72% are from Mexico or South American Countries.

When the percentages are calculated this indicates that
This indicates that 14% of those convicted of crimes and currently incarcerated in a US prison are from Mexico and South America.
  • Using the United States census of 2010 one can see that 34% of the population (in 2010) were from Mexico and Honduras and Guatemala
Percentage of the US population from Mexico, Honduras, and Guatemala
General Population Prison population
4% of the population is foreign born from a country other than Mexico, or South America Native: 80% NA62% of US Population is Native born- 80% of the prison population is native born
Non Native Born From Mexico Honduras and Guatemala  34% Non-Native:21%Non-
of 20%
34% of the US population is non-native born [from the above mentioned countries] 20% of prison pop is non-native born

72% of the 20% is from the specified countries= 14% of US prison pop. is foreign born from  specified countries

  • 6% of the US prison pop. Is non native born from countries other than those specified.
  • Obviously 80% is significantly larger than 14% percent. However, when the difference in percentage population is broken down these statistics illustrate that:
  • 0.8% of the native-born population is likely to be convicted of a crime and sent to prison.
  • While 2.4% of the non- native-born population from Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala are likely to do the same
Country of Birth Percentage of
the Prison Pop:
Native Born American: 62% pop 80% 0.8 % of the native US population will likely be prison inmates
Non Native from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala: 34% pop 14% 2.4% of the specified foreign born population will likely be prison inmates
    This indicates  the above indicated population is 1.6%  times more likely to be a prison inmate than their native born counterparts

When compared this means that non-native born citizens from Mexico and South America are 1.6% more likely to go to prison than the native population. Which is a staggering result, given the difference in raw population numbers between the two groups.

  • There are no studies currently illustrating the data on how much of the prison population are related to non-native born immigrants, yet it could be surmised that it might be a relatively large number considering the large percentage of inmates that are non-native born themselves.

Another often overlooked piece of the puzzle is the relatively high rate of arrests and criminal offenses of those who are granted DACA status. The following tables provide information on DACA requestors who received an IDENT1 response. USCIS administrative data and IDENT data were analyzed to determine if a DACA requestor received an IDENT response, when the IDENT response occurred in relation to an approval or denial of the DACA request, and the number and types of offenses associated with an arrest or apprehension of a DACA requestor. An IDENT response indicates that an individual, in this case a DACA requestor, was arrested or apprehended for a criminal offense or an immigration-related civil offense. These tables only analyze arrests and apprehensions, as not all IDENT responses include disposition of the arrests.

Table 1: Number and Percent of Approved and Denied DACA Requestors with an Arrest

Number of Individual DACA Requestors : 888,765
DACA Requestors Approved : 770,628
DACA Requestors Denied: 59,786
Number of DACA Requestors Approved: 7.76%
Number of DACA Requestors Approved with an Arrest: 66,863
Percent of DACA Requestors Approved with an Arrest: 20,993
Number of DACA Requestors Denied: 31.40%
Number of DACA Requestors Denied with an Arrest: 20,993

Given that those who receive DACA are presented as the “best of the of the best” of the migrant population, it is quite relevant that 770,628 of the 888,765 allowed DACA status have an arrest on their record.

 Certainly, native born Americans commit crime. However, it is fair to ask how many criminals we have to be willing to bring into the United States at the financial cost and physical safety of the native population.

Native and Non -Native Usage of social benefits programs:

Data shows it is clear to see that as a group migrants [and particularly those from the specific impoverished countries mentioned here] use social benefits programs at a much higher rate. According to a study compiled by CIS, despite the fact that there are barriers designed to prevent welfare use for all of these non-citizen populations, the data shows overall non-citizen households access the welfare system at high rates, often receiving benefits on behalf of U.S.-born children.

[the following is quoted directly from The Center for Immigration Studies]

By Steven A. Camarota and Karen Zeigler on November 20, 2018

Among the findings:

  • In 2014, 63 percent of households headed by a non-citizen reported that they used at least one welfare program, compared to 35 percent of native-headed households.
  • Welfare use drops to 58 percent for non-citizen households and 30 percent for native households if cash payments from the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are not counted as welfare. EITC recipients pay no federal income tax. Like other welfare, the EITC is a means-tested, anti-poverty program, but unlike other programs one has to work to receive it.
  • Compared to native households, non-citizen households have much higher use of food programs (45 percent vs. 21 percent for natives) and Medicaid (50 percent vs. 23 percent for natives).
  • Including the EITC, 31 percent of non-citizen-headed households receive cash welfare, compared to 19 percent of native households. If the EITC is not included, then cash receipt by non-citizen households is slightly lower than natives (6 percent vs. 8 percent).
  • While most new legal immigrants (green card holders) are barred from most welfare programs, as are illegal immigrants and temporary visitors, these provisions have only a modest impact on non-citizen household use rates because: 1) most legal immigrants have been in the country long enough to qualify; 2) the bar does not apply to all programs, nor does it always apply to non-citizen children; 3) some states provide welfare to new immigrants on their own; and, most importantly, 4) non-citizens (including illegal immigrants) can receive benefits on behalf of their U.S.-born children who are awarded U.S. citizenship and full welfare eligibility at birth.

The following figures include EITC:

  • No single program explains non-citizens’ higher overall welfare use. For example, not counting school lunch and breakfast, welfare use is still 61 percent for non-citizen households compared to 33 percent for natives. Not counting Medicaid, welfare use is 55 percent for immigrants compared to 30 percent for natives.
  • Welfare use tends to be high for both newer arrivals and long-time residents. Of households headed by non-citizens in the United States for fewer than 10 years, 50 percent use one or more welfare programs; for those here more than 10 years, the rate is 70 percent.
  • Welfare receipt by working households is very common. Of non-citizen households receiving welfare, 93 percent have at least one worker, as do 76 percent of native households receiving welfare. In fact, non-citizen households are more likely overall to have a worker than are native households.1
  • The primary reason welfare use is so high among non-citizens is that a much larger share of non-citizens have modest levels of education and, as a result, they often earn low wages and qualify for welfare at higher rates than natives.
  • Of all non-citizen households, 58 percent are headed by immigrants who have no more than a high school education, compared to 36 percent of native households.
  • Of households headed by non-citizens with no more than a high school education, 81 percent access one or more welfare programs. In contrast, 28 percent of non-citizen households headed by a college graduate use one or more welfare programs.
  • Like non-citizens, welfare use also varies significantly for natives by educational attainment, with the least educated having much higher welfare use than the most educated.
  • Using education levels and likely future income to determine the probability of welfare use among new green card applicants — and denying permanent residency to those likely to utilize such programs — would almost certainly reduce welfare use among future permanent residents.
  • Of households headed by naturalized immigrants (U.S. citizens), 50 percent used one or more welfare programs. Naturalized-citizen households tend to have lower welfare use than non-citizen households for most types of programs, but higher use rates than native households for virtually every major program.
  • Welfare use is significantly higher for non-citizens than for natives in all four top immigrant-receiving states. In California, 72 percent of non-citizen-headed households use one or more welfare programs, compared to 35 percent for native-headed households. In Texas, the figures are 69 percent vs. 35 percent; in New York they are 53 percent vs. 38 percent; and in Florida, 56 percent of non-citizen-headed households use at least welfare program, compared to 35 percent of native households.
  • Programs Examined. The major welfare programs examined in this report are Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) food program, free or subsidized school lunch and breakfast, food stamps (officially called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP), Medicaid, public housing, and rent subsidies.
  • Data Source. Data for this analysis comes from the public-use file of the 2014 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), which is the newest SIPP data available.2 The SIPP is a longitudinal dataset consisting of a series of “panels”. Each panel is a nationally representative sample of U.S. households that is followed over several years. The survey was redesigned for 2013 with 2014 as the second wave of the new panel. We use the 2014 SIPP for this analysis. Like all Census surveys of this kind, welfare use is based on self-reporting in the SIPP, and as such there is some misreporting in the survey. All means and percentages are calculated using weights provided by the Census Bureau.
  • Why Use the SIPP? The SIPP is ideally suited for studying welfare programs because, unlike other Census surveys that measure welfare, the SIPP was specifically designed for this purpose. As the Census Bureau states on its website, the purpose of the SIPP is to “provide accurate and comprehensive information about the income and program participation of individuals and households.”3 In addition to the SIPP, the only other government surveys that identify immigrants and at the same time measure welfare use for the entire population are the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement, often abbreviated as CPS ASEC or just ASEC. The ACS is a very large survey, but only asks about a few programs. The ASEC is released on a more timely basis than the SIPP and asks about more programs than the ACS, but it does not include the EITC; the ASEC also is not specifically designed to capture receipt of welfare programs. As we discuss at length in a prior study published in 2015, based on 2012 SIPP data, there is general agreement among researchers that the SIPP does a better job of capturing welfare use than other Census Bureau surveys, including the ASEC and ACS.4 More recent analysis confirms this conclusion.5
  • One recent improvement in the SIPP that was not available when we conducted our 2015 study is the inclusion of a question on use of the EITC, making for even more complete coverage of the nation’s welfare programs. The EITC is by far the nation’s largest cash program to low-income workers, paying out nearly $60 billion in 2014.6 Unfortunately for immigration research, the SIPP survey for 2014 no longer asks respondents about their current immigration status.7 As other researchers have pointed out, individuals in prior SIPPs who are non-citizens and report that they are currently not permanent residents are almost entirely illegal immigrants, with a modest number of long-term temporary visitors (e.g., guestworkers and foreign students) also included.8
  • As we showed in our 2015 analysis using the 2012 SIPP, 66 percent of households headed by non-citizens who do not have a green card, and who are mostly illegal immigrants, have very high welfare use rates — excluding the EITC.9 With the new 2014 SIPP, we can no longer identify likely illegal immigrants with the same ease. However, we do know that about half of non-citizens in Census Bureau data are illegal immigrants, which we would expect to make welfare use for non-citizens in general low, as those in the country without authorization are barred from almost all federal welfare programs.10 But like our prior analysis using the 2012 SIPP, this report shows that welfare use by households headed by illegal immigrants must be significant for the overall rate of welfare use among non-citizens to look as it does in this report.
  • Examining Welfare Use by Household. A large body of prior research has examined welfare use and the fiscal impact of immigrants by looking at households because it makes the most sense. The National Research Council did so in its fiscal estimates in 1997 because it argued that “the household is the primary unit through which public services are consumed.”11 In their fiscal study of New Jersey, Deborah Garvey and Thomas Espenshade also used households as the unit of analysis because “households come closer to approximating a functioning socioeconomic unit of mutual exchange and support.”12 Other analyses of welfare use and programs, including by the U.S. Census Bureau, have also used the household as the basis for studying welfare use.13 The late Julian Simon of the Cato Institute, himself a strong immigration advocate, pointed out that, “One important reason for not focusing on individuals is that it is on the basis of family needs that public welfare, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), and similar transfers are received.”14
  • The primary reason researchers have not looked at individuals is that, as Simon pointed out, eligibility for welfare programs is typically based on the income of all family or household members. Moreover, welfare benefits can often be consumed by all members of the household, such as food purchased with food stamps. Also, if the government provides food or health insurance to children, it creates a clear benefit to adult members of the household who will not have to spend money on these things. In addition, some of the welfare use variables in the SIPP are reported at the household level, not the individual level.
  • Some advocates for expansive immigration argue that household comparisons are unfair or biased against immigrants because someday the children who receive welfare may possibly pay back the costs of these programs in taxes as adults. Of course, the same argument could be made for the children of natives to whom immigrants are compared in this analysis. Moreover, excluding children obscures the fundamental issue that a very large share of immigrants are unable to support their own children and turn to taxpayer-funded means-tested programs. In terms of the policy debate over immigration and the implications for public coffers, this is the central concern.

This blog post is not intended to encourage hatred or disparaging of any group of individuals. Instead this is intended to present the undeniable fact that the resources of the United States are not infinite, and choices must be made as to how those resources will be used. How much is the native-born populace expected to sacrifice to achieve the lofty goals of “equity” among populations and nations? How many of our school aged children must be put on the sidelines while resources are invested in countless newcomers, even when the numbers show those investments are not producing the sought after  results? How many native- born citizens living paycheck to paycheck must turn over 30% of their earned income to fund the $89.1 billion dollar price tag attached to the services and benefits doled out each year to these “New Americans” for generations to come? How many citizens must be victimized by non-natives who struggle to assimilate to the laws and customs of our society?

In conclusion it is a common claim that it is simply the environment that dictates how successful and educated a person will be in life, while the actual person could be anyone from anywhere and still achieve an equal outcome.  Unfortunately, the evidence simply does not support that assertion. Instead, what we see is that in every facet of society, the immigrants arriving from Mexico and South American countries struggle to assimilate and achieve overall life outcomes similar to that of the native-born populace. The data and statistics show there is a real flaw in the thought that being American is nothing more than an “Idea”, and that the “American Dream” is a guaranteed outcome for anyone who can set foot on America’s magic soil.