Need To Reduce Public Expenditures for Newly Arrived Immigrants and Correct Inequity in Current Immigration Law

GGD-75-107: Published: Jul 15, 1975. Publicly Released: Jul 15, 1975.

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This report (1) discusses the need to reduce the likelihood that large expenditures of public funds will be made to support newly arrived immigrants, (2) describes various ways aliens have violated immigration laws and, while in illegal status, have obtained equity, which, in part, assists them in becoming legal immigrants, and (3) recommends administrative and legislative changes needed to alleviate these problems. Our review was made pursuant to the Budget and Accounting Act, 1921, and the Accounting and Auditing Act of 1950.

GAO found that the Departments of State and Justice, and the Congress, must act to reduce the likelihood of newly arrived immigrants receiving public assistance. Large expenditures of tax moneys--Federal and State--have been made to support immigrants and their families within 5 years after entry. In some cases an unavoidable event (accident, illness) occurred after the entry, which caused a need for public assistance; but this was true in only 10 percent of the welfare cases GAO examined. GAO could not obtain a reasonably accurate figure of the amount of funds involved in public assistance payments to newly arrived immigrants; states simply do not accumulate such data. However, GAO believes that funds are substantial. Information from locations visited by GAO in California, Massachusetts, and New York and information solicited from other locations supported that newly arrived immigrants are receiving public assistance. For example, GAO's analysis of 195 randomly selected immigrant welfare cases in Los Angeles County showed that 86 (44 percent) applied for assistance within 5 years after U.S. entry. More than half of these applied within 2 years. GAO estimated that newly arrived immigrants and their families were receiving $19.6 million annually in welfare payments in Los Angeles County. The Immigration and Nationality Act provides that no one be admitted as an immigrant who is likely to become a public charge. An applicant is excludable from admission if likely to need public assistance. The act provides for deporting those who, within 5 years of entry, become public charges from causes shown to have arisen before entry. For deportation purposes, an immigrant--although wholly supported by public assistance--is considered deportable only if he is legally liable to repay the supporting state or local authority. Thus, most forms of public assistance are not applicable for deportation purposes. Sponsors' affidavits of support do not protect taxpayers from having to support many newly arrived immigrants, because various courts have judged the affidavits to be only moral obligations.

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