Illegal immigrant families received nearly $1.3 billion in Los Angeles County welfare money during 2015 and 2016, nearly one-quarter of the amount spent on the county’s entire needy population, according to data obtained by Fox News.
The data was obtained from the county Department of Public Social Services — which is responsible for doling out the benefits — and gives a snapshot of the financial costs associated with sanctuary and related policies.
The sanctuary county of Los Angeles is an illegal immigration epicenter, with the largest concentration of any county in the nation, according to a study from the Migration Policy Institute. The county also allows illegal immigrant parents with children born in the United States to seek welfare and food stamp benefits.
Robert Rector, a Heritage Foundation senior fellow who has written extensive studies on poverty and illegal immigration, said the costs represent “the tip of the iceberg.”
He said the costs of education, police and fire, medical, and subsidized housing can total $24,000 per year in government spending per family, much more than would be paid in taxes.
“They get $3 in benefits for every $1 they spend,” Rector said.
The Trump presidency’s hardline immigration policies, though, may be playing some role in curtailing the population seeking welfare payments in recent months.
The same stats show Los Angeles County is expected to dole out $200 million less this year than in 2016, and several thousand fewer families are collecting benefits.
“The number of entrants nationwide is going down. The population is static if not shrinking,” Rector said.
The welfare benefit data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services shows:
- More than 58,000 families received a total of $602 million in benefits in 2015.
- More than 64,000 families received a total of $675 million in 2016.
- During the first five months of 2017, more than 60,000 families received a total of $181 million.
- Welfare and food stamp costs for the county’s entire population were $3.1 billion in 2015, $2.9 billion in 2016 and $1.5 billion so far in 2017.
Roughly a quarter of California’s 4 million illegal immigrants reside in Los Angeles County.
In 2013, California spent a total of $25.3 billion on illegal immigrants – or $2,370 per U.S. citizen household, according to a 2013 study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Texas and New York were second and third, at $12.1 billion and $9.5 billion, respectively.
Former state Republican Party Chairman Shawn Steel blasted Los Angeles policies but credited Immigration and Customs Enforcement with stepping up deportations.
“The amazing thing is that everyone was expecting a big wall to stop [illegal immigration],” he said. “The decrease has been enhanced dramatically by ICE agents just doing their job.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a proponent of the city’s sanctuary status, is a driving factor behind expanding immigrant benefits. He founded the Office of Immigrant Affairs shortly after taking office in 2013 to help immigrants navigate the maze of government benefits.
“Immigration is at the heart of LA’s story,” he said in a written statement. “LA’s become one of the world’s great cities by embracing immigration and diversity and we’ll continue supporting anyone who wants to work hard and invest in our future – no matter who they are, where they came from or what language they speak.”
Tori Richards is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.