Could Immigration Reform Aid Nation's War on Poverty?
5 months ago
Data suggests high number of undocumented means more Hispanics among nation's poor
Where do most Hispanics, citizen or undocumented, live in the U.S.? California. Which state has the highest rate of poverty, according to newly released census data? California. And which state is one of the most expensive to live in? Cali…
Okay, you get the point. California is a case study for how lawmakers’ willingness to drag their feet on meaningful immigration reform seems to have only exacerbated the nation’s growing poverty problem.
According to the U.S. Census “Supplemental Poverty Measure” (SPM), California’s poverty rate of 23.5 percent is the highest of any state. That’s almost 1 in every 4 people in the Golden State. The year-old measuring standard adjusts for cost of living to reflect geographic differences, deducts state taxes and payroll taxes from income, and, most importantly, adds in the number of assistance programs, like food stamps, that contribute to a family’s net annual income.
When adjusted using the SPM, Hispanics have the highest rate of poverty of any ethnic or racial group in the nation, at 28 percent. But the rate also is pushed higher due to the number of Hispanics whose undocumented status makes them ineligible for a number of anti-poverty programs. That begs the question, why isn’t an overhaul of the immigration system and creating a path toward citizenship for undocumented adults and their children a top priority?
The answer to that question isn’t California; it’s Washington, D.C., which coincidentally has the second largest rate of poverty in the nation at 23.2 percent. Legalization for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. could greatly benefit the political party that delivered it. Until that happens, those among the heavily undocumented Hispanic populations in California, Florida, Texas and Arizona are living in the worst kind of limbo.
[ALSO READ: Immigration Is A Black Issue, Too]
Policy experts say some Hispanics are living in unnecessary conditions of poverty, as their U.S.-born children are qualified for some anti-poverty programs.
“There’s been a lot of anti-immigrant restrictions ensuring [a] family won’t use programs they are eligible for,” said Leticia Miranda, associate director for the National Council of La Raza’s Economic Policy Project, in a phone interview.