Broken By Kennedy. Paid for by You

Image Credit: Progressives Today

Image Credit: Progressives Today

When President-elect Donald Trump first entered into national politics, he brought to focus the problems with our current immigration system. Finally, someone in politics bluntly talking about the negative impact even our legal immigration policy has had on the masses, the first in generations to do so. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…They are sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with them…We have people that aren’t working. We have people that have no incentive to work.”[1] And with over eight million unemployed legal immigrants and the average working immigrant making 20% less than a native US citizen, it’s time to seriously examine the issue. [2] Truly, Trump changed the perspective of the immigration debate through his rhetoric, focusing it on the cost to the American taxpayer.  A year and an election later, critics are still painting Trump’s words as misinformed or even bigoted. But Trump is right, we’re getting a different type of immigrant, and we can point to the 1965 Immigration Act. The Act, trumpeted by Ted Kennedy, abolished all previous patterns and quotas that kept American demographics stable and, in doing so, probably changed the future of America. [3] By replacing the previous system that was meant to preserve the ethnic makeup and culture of America, the new system sought to unify families, attract cheap labor, and increase diversity. Before the 1965 Act, immigrants were more educated, had higher incomes, and were more likely to return to their home countries. Post-1965 Immigration Act gave the US the polar opposite.[4] For example, in the current system, immigrants are “significantly more likely to receive government assistance than the native population.”.[5] The Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) — viewed as the most accurate picture of welfare use in America – concluded welfare use (government-provided financial aid for people in need) is high for both new arrivals and established immigrants (both legal and illegal) without a high school education at 76% of people and even high among those with high school or more education at 63% of people.[6]

Clearly, the tension is of quantity vs. quality. It between our current policy of bringing in large amounts of immigrants and hoping they become contributing citizens versus a system in which we exclude immigrants that are not able to provide for themselves in order to hopefully bring in only productive migrants. By looking at welfare use, we can examine the practical impact immigrants have on American society as well as whether or not immigrants are adapting to America. If large percentages of immigrants continue to rely on welfare, we, like Donald Trump, should question the motivations of those immigrants and the practicality of our current immigration and welfare policy. For example, Milton Freidman (an economist) was pro-unlimited immigration, however not with the welfare system in its current state. He explained: “There is a sense in which free immigration, in the same sense in which we had it before 1914, is not possible today. Why not? Because it is one thing to have free immigration to jobs. It is another thing to have free immigration to welfare.”[7]

A simple way to address the burden to taxpayers would be to stop immigrants from welfare and similar programs. However, the President of Migration Policy Institute, Michael Fix, argued that denying government benefits to non-citizens changes the incentives for becoming a citizen, transforming the citizenship of the United States as a pathway to benefits instead of as a symbol of patriotism and engagement in the United States.[8] Instead, he doubles-down on our current policy suggesting:

  • Leaving government aid open to citizens and non-citizens
  • Continuing to allow immigrants in at such high rates without the historical tradition of ebbed periods meant to ensure assimilation. (There has been no such period since the implementation of the law in 1965.)
  • Increasing access to government assimilation and adjustment programs for immigrants

However, instead of bringing everyone, why wouldn’t you look out across the world, like a sports team does, and try to get the best of the best?[9] Instead of bringing in people who need government assistance, why not bring those who can support themselves and add to American society with their own ingenuity? Meaning, as we did before 1965, we enforce an immigration system that benefits society instead of adding to the burden.

With this in mind, I would suggest reapplying the older immigration policies before Ted Kennedy decided to tamper with the guidelines. There’s nothing wrong with a country having standards for the people allowed in; it’s how most immigration systems were run before they decided inclusivity made for good policy. Stripping the system of the 1965 Immigration Act reinstates the standards that brought in immigrants that were better than Americans at the time. The point is that policy makers should be looking at these trends as points they need to reassess. Ted Kennedy got the legislation passed in 1965 by promising to keep what were the current levels of immigration “substantially the same,” the ethnic mix of the country unchanged without “inundating America” with immigrants from third-world, “economically poor nations…”[10] Instead, the policy did the opposite. Policymakers should finally keep the promises of Ted Kennedy and try to remedy the development of a new underclass of immigrants that the taxpayers have to support.The goal should be to bring in a population better than those already here. Otherwise, why not save them a trip and just send more aid to their home country?

To track legislation and find resources on how to get involved in shaping the policy, the below link will take you to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). It’s a non-partisan, non-profit concerned with reforming immigration laws to better serve generations to come.


[1] Trump, D. J., & Washington Post Staff. (2015, June 16). Full text: Donald Trump announces a presidential bid. Washington Post [Washington, DC]. Retrieved from

[2] US Department of Labor, Foreign Born Workers: Labor-force Characteristics – 2015 ,  (May 19, 2016).

[3] Erler, E. J., West, T. G., & Marini, J. A. (2007). The Founders on Citizenship and Immigration: Principles and Challenges in America. Claremont, CA: Claremont Institute.

[4] Camarota, S. A. (1999). Immigrants in the United States – 1998. Center for Immigration Studies.

[5] Kershnar, S. (2002). Immigrants and Welfare. Public Affairs Quarterly, 16(1), 39-61.

[6] Camarota, S. A. (2015). Welfare Use by Immigrant and Native Households. Center for Immigration Studies.

[7] Friedman, M. (2009, December 11). Milton Friedman – Illegal Immigration [Video file]. Retrieved from

[8] Fix, M. (2009). Immigrants and Welfare: The Impact of Welfare Reform on America’s Newcomers. New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.

[9]Hanchett, I. (2015). Coulter, Reid, Gutierrez Spar on Immigration. Breitbart.

[10] On The Issues. (2015, April 25). Ted Kennedy on Immigration. Retrieved from



Daniel A. Nichols is a young conservative scholar, who obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Calvin College. His focus was on Immigration Law and its Effects on the United States. He has worked as a legislative intern in Washington, DC, and has been published twice. As a Policy Corner writer, he is most focused on discussing Immigration, Economics, and Individual Rights. He is a pro-America, protectionist, small government conservative that believes people are at their best when they are unhindered by overbearing authority (from the government).

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