Building a Wall Around the Welfare State, Instead of the Country

24 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2013 Last revised: 29 Jul 2013

See all articles by Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

Cato Institute - Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity

Sofie Cole


Date Written: July 25, 2013


Economists generally believe that immigration increases the size of the economy, improves productivity, and is an economic boon for almost all parties. Moreover, historically, immigration has been a net positive for the federal budget, improving the long-run fiscal condition of the United States. Changes to federal laws, many of which are proposed in the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, could further improve the fiscal impact of future immigration.

Critics of immigration reform worry about immigrants disproportionately consuming public benefits. Instead, they should support legal changes to immigrant welfare eligibility. Eliminating immigrant welfare eligibility for Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, and other programs would, in the words of the Cato Institute’s late Chairman Emeritus William Niskanen, “build a wall around the welfare state, not around the country.” Doing so would reduce immigrant welfare dependency and could increase the pace of inter-generational mobility among immigrants. Such measures would also be constitutional. This policy analysis shows how to implement those reforms.

Keywords: immigration reform, non-citizen welfare benefits, Social Security, Medicare

JEL Classification: I38, J15, D61

Suggested Citation

Nowrasteh, Alex and Cole, Sofie, Building a Wall Around the Welfare State, Instead of the Country (July 25, 2013). Cato Institute Policy Analysis, No. 732, 2013 . Available at SSRN:

Alex Nowrasteh (Contact Author)

Cato Institute - Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity ( email )

1000 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20001-5403
United States

Sofie Cole

Independent ( email )

No Address Available

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