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Letter: 'Immigrants on welfare' is a myth

In this June 18, 2014, file photo, detainees

In this June 18, 2014, file photo, detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville,Texas. Photo Credit: AP / Eric Gay

The letter "Trump's appeal is the pocketbook" [Sept. 28] included the statement, "People like the idea that perhaps if we secure the borders, taxpayers will stop having to pay welfare benefits to immigrants here illegally."

This concept of having to pay welfare to immigrants here illegally is erroneous. And yet, it is becoming the fear mantra of all of our politicians. Repetition eventually creates the perception of fact. I've heard this welfare concept repeated as "fact" by those I once believed to be informed leaders. I have heard this "fact" from leaders and volunteers of outreach programs who serve immigrants. Why don't those at the front of this debate and those serving immigrants directly have a clearer understanding of social service entitlements?

I ask immigrant advocate organizations to clear up this concept. Use clear language, documented agency sources and indisputable figures. Repeat the truth as the mantra.

Even legal permanent residents must pay into the Social Security and Medicare systems for 10 years before they are eligible to receive benefits when they retire. In most cases, these legal residents can not receive Supplemental Security Income, which is available only to U.S. citizens. They are not eligible for means-tested public benefits until five years after receiving green cards.

Advocates for immigrants should say this, and also speak about the requirements for hospitals to continue their nonprofit status. Talk about contributions from immigrants here illegally through taxpayer identification numbers for benefits they will never withdraw as noncitizens.

It is time to bombard with the truth!

Janet Liotta, Farmingdale

Editor's note: The writer worked with immigrants for 15 years as a founder of Farmingdale Citizens For Viable Solutions, an advocacy organization.

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