Report: More Than Half of Central American Immigrants on Welfare

More than half of legal and illegal immigrant households from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are on at least one form of public assistance, according to an analysis of government data by a limited immigration group.

Based on the Census Bureau’s March 2013 Current Population Survey, the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reports that most legal and illegal immigrant heads of households from these three countries received benefits from at least one major benefit program like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), food stamps (SNAP), free/reduced lunch, public/subsidized housing, and/or Medicaid.

Some 57 percent of households headed by an El Salvadoran used one such major welfare program, as did 54 percent of Honduran households and 49 percent of Guatemalan households. By comparison, 24 percent of households headed by a native-born American used at least one of these programs.

While the welfare use among immigrants from these countries is higher, their levels of employment are about on par with native-born Americans.

Based on the 2013 Census data reviewed by CIS, 77 percent of immigrants between the ages of 25 to 54 from El Salvador were employed, while 74 percent of Guatemalan immigrants in that age range had a job as did 73 percent of Honduran immigrants. For native-born Americans, that figure was 76 percent.

The data comes amid a meltdown at the U.S. southern border, as tens of thousands of unaccompanied minor and family units — largely from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala — stream illegally into the country.

The New York Times reported last week that the government is sending an expected 290,000 illegal immigrants around the U.S. to cope with the influx at the border.

Based on the most recent Census numbers, in 2012 there were 2.7 million immigrants from these three countries total, which, according to CIS, has increased 234 percent since 1990. The number of both legal and illegal immigrants from El Salvador in 2012 was 1.3 million, 880,000 were from Guatemala, and 536,000 were from Honduras.  

The government estimates that some 60 percent of the immigrants from these Central American countries are in the country illegally. 

Other data-points from CIS include

Language: Of immigrants from El Salvador, 70 percent report they speak English less than very well; for immigrants from Guatemala, it is 72 percent; and for immigrants from Honduras, it is 69 percent. 

Home-ownership: Of households headed by Salvadoran immigrants, 41 percent are owner-occupied, as are 28 percent of Guatemalan households, and 29 percent of Honduran immigrant households. The corresponding figure for natives is 66 percent.

The Top-10 States of Settlement: California Texas, New York, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Educational Attainment: 54 percent of Guatemalan immigrants (ages 25 to 65) have not graduated high school. The figure for Salvadorans is 53 percent, and for Hondurans, 44 percent. The corresponding figure for native-born Americans is 7 percent. 

Poverty: 32 percent of Honduran immigrants and their young children (under 18) live in poverty; as do 31 percent of Guatemalan immigrants and their children and 28 percent of Salvadoran immigrants and their children. The corresponding figure for natives and their children is 14 percent.4 

Health Insurance: 47 percent of Guatemalan immigrants and their young children (under 18) do not have health insurance. The figure for both Salvadoran and Honduran immigrants and their young children is 41 percent. The corresponding figure for natives and their children is 13 percent.5

Share Working: 77 percent of immigrants from El Salvador (ages 25 to 54) have a job, as do 74 percent of Guatemalan immigrants and 73 percent of Honduran immigrants. The corresponding figure for natives is 76 percent.


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