This article appeared in the August 13, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Are immigrants really freeloaders?

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Burkino Faso attend a job fair conducted by Tenzin Ngawang (center), Refugee Services Employment specialist, on Dec. 17, 2015, in Clarkston, Georgia. The job fair is held weekly by Lutheran Services of Georgia. The city is noted for its ethnic diversity. In the 1990s, refugee resettlement programs identified Clarkston as a good fit for displaced persons of many backgrounds. By the 2000s the local high school had students from more than 50 countries.
David Clark Scott
Audience Engagement Editor

In today’s edition, our five handpicked stories explore democracy (Why Iowa?), leadership (Hindu nationalism), hope (in eastern Ukraine), generosity (in Maine), and endless creativity (Leonardo da Vinci).

But first, even legal immigrants are freeloaders.

That’s a perception underscoring Monday’s move by the Trump administration to make it tougher for legal immigrants to become U.S. citizens if they’ve relied on food stamps or Medicaid or housing vouchers. Officials framed the decision as a principled push toward self-reliance.

True compassion isn’t giving someone a fish; it’s teaching them how to fish. In other words, tighter green card rules help people become self-sufficient, administration officials suggest. Of course, tackling the problem of “freeloading” immigrants plays well with voters as we head into the 2020 election.

But that perception is not based on the facts. Let’s take food stamps: 93% of all food stamp payments go to native-born U.S. citizens. What about Medicaid? The Associated Press puts that number at 93%.

In fact, if you’re a capitalist, you want legal immigrants. They create new jobs. Immigrants are almost twice as likely to become entrepreneurs as native-born U.S. citizens, reports Harvard Business Review. Immigrants make up just 13% of the population but account for nearly 28% of America’s entrepreneurs. To become a U.S. citizen, immigrants need to be resourceful, persistent, and determined in overcoming obstacles – the same qualities that make good entrepreneurs.

Just ask South African immigrant Elon Musk (Tesla), Russian immigrant Sergey Brin (Google), or Taiwanese immigrant Jerry Yang (Yahoo).

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This article appeared in the August 13, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/13 edition