Face it. We are a compassionate people. Individually and collectively, we take pride in caring for the needy. When summoned to help anywhere in the world, we respond. Even in the highly personal decision to create a charitable budget, generosity prevails. We strive for understanding and thoughtfulness to maximize the benevolent effect of every dollar.
Compassion for the underprivileged finds expression in our welfare budget. The crossroads between immigration and welfare call for exceptional compassion and thoughtfulness.
In March 2003, a report issued by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) revealed that immigrant households receiving welfare have increased by 750,000 since 1996. A CIS report of November 2003 pointed out that 25% of immigrant-headed households relied on welfare. This contrasted with 16% of native households. The average payment to immigrant households in 2001 was 50% higher than to native households.
The CIS study also revealed that illegal aliens, on behalf of their U.S. born children, receive a substantial share of our welfare budget. In 2001, the value of benefits received by illegal alien households averaged over $1,000. These dependencies persist. Immigrants living in the United States even after 20 years continued to use the welfare system at significantly higher rates than others.
The welfare budget helps some, but ignores others. It helps those here illegally. Meanwhile, it perversely turns a blind-eye to the needy in foreign lands. Every dollar given to an illegal immigrant in the U.S. is one less dollar available to help the law-abiding foreigner overseas, where exchange rates expand charitable prospects for the same dollar.
In a world having a net population gain (births minus deaths) of about 210,000 every day, we must learn to help the poor where they are. History has delivered us beyond the point of meaningfully responding to this massive need with relaxed borders.
Persons taking the initiative to cut and run are often the best candidates to agitate for a change back home. Our immigration welfare policies lure them away. We should instead encourage them to stand and fight for changes at home.
Learning to act with thoughtful charity, as we responsibly confront the limits of a finite planet, will become our all-defining challenge.
– John F. Rohe, J.D., practices law in Petoskey, Michigan.
He is involved in a variety of land conservation causes.