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A reader recently sent us a Facebook post with "10 Illegal Alien Facts." One of them was that "more than 43 percent of all food stamps are given to illegals."
We decided to take a look -- and quickly found the claim was preposterous.
In March 2012, the most recent month for which figures are available, a total of 46.4 million people received food stamps, so 43 percent of that number would be slightly less than 20 million.
For obvious reasons, the numbers of illegal immigrants is much trickier to track. However, the most widely accepted number comes from the Pew Hispanic Center, which estimated that there were 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the United States in 2010.
So it’s mathematically impossible for more than 43 percent of all food stamps to be given to illegals -- there simply aren’t enough undocumented immigrants in the country to make the math work. Nor does the math work if you choose a month before the number of food stamp recipients rose due to the recession. In October 2008, there were 30.8 million recipients; 43 percent of that number is 13.2 million, which exceeded the total number of illegal immigrants at the time, 11.6 million.
None of this even takes into account an even more basic reality: It is against the law for Illegal immigrants to receive food stamps and the government has a process to verify immigration status. Citizen children of illegal immigrants can qualify (there are 3.5 million, according to Pew) but that's not enough to make the math work.
Is it possible some illegal immigrants receive food stamps anyway? Sure. But even if every single one somehow managed to fool the government, it still wouldn't be enough to account for the 43 percent.
The first of the Facebook post’s 10 claims -- that "more than 43 percent of all food stamps are given to illegals" -- is ridiculously false. It isn’t mathematically possible given the number of illegal immigrants in the United States, and it ignores the fact that illegal immigrants can’t even receive food stamps legally. Pants on Fire!
Facebook post, "10 Illegal Alien Facts"
U.S. Department of Agriculture, SNAP monthly data, accessed June 18, 2012
Pew Hispanic Center, "Unauthorized Immigrant Population: National and State Trends, 2010," Feb. 1, 2011
U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Non-Citizen Requirements in the Food Stamp Program," Jan. 2003
Department of Homeland Security, "Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population in 2010," October 2011
Pew Hispanic Center, "Background Briefing Prepared for Task Force on Immigration and America's Future," June 14, 2005
Center for Immigration Studies, "Welfare Use by Immigrant Households with Children: A Look at Cash, Medicaid, Housing, and Food Programs," April 2011
Interview with Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, June 18, 2012
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