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The United States has seen a rise in political rhetoric and federal policy based on the “welfare magnet” idea that immigrants pose a fiscal challenge to social safety net programs, especially publicly funded health coverage. But is there any evidence of this? IPL studied the state-by-state expansion of Medicaid to include recently arrived immigrants, and the results suggest that immigrants don’t strategically move to other states to claim these benefits.
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Public benefits often come with complicated eligibility requirements and application processes, which end up deterring the people who need them most. A federal fee waiver program allows low-income immigrants to apply for citizenship at no cost, but it's surprisingly underused. When USCIS streamlined the process to request a fee waiver, naturalization rates rose among people who usually face the greatest barriers to citizenship.
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Many policymakers assume that living in or near an ethnic community makes immigrants less likely to integrate. They tend to overlook the ways these communities help newcomers gain a foothold in their new home. That support system can be especially beneficial for refugees, but countries often disperse them across resettlement locations in a way that discourages them from clustering. We studied refugees in Switzerland and found evidence that ethnic communities can help new arrivals find work.
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With branches at Stanford University and ETH Zurich, IPL is an international community of scholars dedicated to innovation in immigration policy.
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