September 3, 2015 12:14PM

Center for Immigration Studies Report Exaggerates Immigrant Welfare Use, Part 2

Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) wrote a response to my criticism of his recent report. Camarota and I have gone back and forth before on similar issues in the past (here and here)

Camarota responded to few of the points I made and many that I didn’t make. The gist of his response is that I changed the subject rather than replying to his paper which is odd since, in his response, he dodged many of my specific points while going off on tangents. Camarota wrote, “Readers should carefully note when would‐​be critics try to change the subject.” Good advice – Camarota should have followed it.

Here are the points I made in my initial post that he didn’t respond to:

  1. The head of household variable that forms the core of CIS’s analysis isn’t useful or used much anymore by scholars who study this issue. That variable counts many native‐​born Americans, including American‐​born spouses of immigrants, as part of the welfare consuming households. This significantly exaggerates welfare use rates. There are other reasons why households are not a useful unit of comparison. Camarota didn’t respond to this.
  2. The CIS report does not report the dollar value of welfare benefits consumed. When immigrants consume welfare, the dollar value of the benefits is typically far lower for them than it is for natives – sometimes substantially so. CIS could have included the value of welfare benefits consumed but they did not. Camarota did not response to this.
  3. Larger immigrant households could be driving the results. Camarota did not respond to this.
  4. Social Security and Medicare should be included because they are the largest programs in the welfare state. Camarota sort of responded to that but then oddly implied that I support these welfare programs. CIS frequently cites the existence of the welfare state to argue against immigration – whether legal or illegal. I frequently use immigration as a means to argue for restricting or eliminating the welfare state. You decide who is more opposed to the welfare state.

CIS claims that welfare use rates for immigrants are higher because our immigration policy favors poorer family members over higher skilled workers. That point would be noteworthy if CIS supported skilled immigration – which they don’t. CIS opposes skilled immigration, making their complaint that immigrants are not skilled enough seem like merely a rhetorical play rather than a serious argument.

Camarota’s response was as unsatisfying as his initial report. He impugns my motives, broadly misrepresents my positions on immigration, and responded to strawmen with only a vague resemblance to my actual criticisms rather than taking on the criticisms directly. Frankly, I’m disappointed because CIS and Cato readers deserve a real debate on this issue.