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Journal Article

Implications of the 1996 Welfare and Immigration Reform Acts for US Immigration

Thomas J. Espenshade, Jessica L. Baraka and Gregory A. Huber
Population and Development Review
Vol. 23, No. 4 (Dec., 1997), pp. 769-801
Published by: Population Council
DOI: 10.2307/2137379
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2137379
Page Count: 33
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Implications of the 1996 Welfare and Immigration Reform Acts for US Immigration
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Abstract

Major changes in noncitizen eligibility for welfare and in US immigration policy are contained in two pieces of federal legislation signed into law in 1996. The first, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, reforms the entitlement policy for poor families and imposes new limits on alien access to welfare benefits and other social services. The second, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, strengthens efforts to combat illegal immigration and creates higher standards of financial self-sufficiency for the admission of sponsored legal immigrants. The authors suggest that these reforms will produce unintended, and possibly undesirable, consequences. They argue in particular that the 1996 reform measures, instead of preserving legal immigration and discouraging illegal immigration, are more likely to reduce the former and expand incentives for the latter. In addition, the Personal Responsibility Act creates added pressures for eligible legal immigrants to apply for US citizenship. To the extent that higher rates of naturalization were unanticipated by reformers of welfare policy, the actual cost savings attributable to reduced benefits for noncitizens will be smaller than expected.

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