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April 1994, Volume 1, Number 3

Eliminating SSI for Immigrants

A White House Task Force is considering a proposal that would deny Supplemental Security Income benefits to elderly legal immigrants unless they become US citizens. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for SSI benefits. The SSI program is a major source of support for needy elderly legal immigrants, since many do not qualify for Social Security benefits because they did not work in the United States.

The number of immigrants receiving SSI has increased from 128,000 in 1982 to 601,000 in 1993. About 150,000 new applications for SSI are received from legal aliens each year. Two-thirds of the immigrant SSI recipients are elderly, reflecting the tendency of some immigrants who have become US citizens to bring their parents into the country, and then have their parents apply for SSI. The number of parents who immigrate to join their children in the US has increased from 40,000 in 1985 to 65,000 in 1993. By not permitting immigrants to obtain SSI, AFDC and Food Stamp benefits until they become US citizens--meaning they must wait at least 5 years--the Task Force estimates savings of over $1.2 billion per year.

Ronald Brownstein, "Welfare Proposal Threatens Aid to Older Immigrants, " Los