Bogus “Facts” on Illegal Immigrants

Illegal immigrant welfare meme

Illegal immigrant welfare memeCourtesy of Clash Daily, with over 12,000 likes and 35,000 shares. This meme lists 8 “facts” about illegal immigrants, primarily relating to welfare and crime.

There are no sources given for this meme’s claims, and it appears to be a recycled meme from years ago. This alone makes it highly questionable, but since it was posted recently we’ll see how it stands up to the reality today.

Accurate statistics on illegal immigrants are difficult to come by, since they are often not captured by official measures. Still, there are significantly better methods than unsourced memes to look for the truth.

Claim: 43% of Food Stamps are Given to Illegals

According to the US Department of Agriculture, there are 43.3 million food stamp recipients in fiscal year 2017. 43% of that would be 18.6 million people. Are 18.6 million illegal immigrants on food stamps? This seems implausible, if not mathematically impossible. No one knows exactly how many illegal immigrants are in the US, but the Pew Research Center gives a widely respected estimate of 11.1 million. This would mean there are more illegal immigrants receiving food stamps than there are illegal immigrants!

Different sources do give different estimates of the illegal immigrant population, so it’s fair to look at other estimates besides the Pew statistic. Some say it’s on the decline, moving below 11 million. Others, like the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform (a group opposed to illegal immigrants) use different methodologies and claim 20 million illegals could be in the US. Even with these higher estimates, that would still mean virtually every illegal immigrant is receiving food stamps, which is extremely unlikely considering that they don’t qualify for the program.

Illegal immigrants are not eligible for food stamps, though their children are if they are born in the US, thus becoming citizens. In this respect, it’s possible for an adult here illegally to benefit from the food stamp program, but counting their children as “illegals on food stamps” would be factually inaccurate, given that they are US citizens. While there is no accurate statistics on the number that might benefit from food stamps, to say “43% is given to illegals” is almost certainly wrong, and wrong by a significant amount. A study by the Center for Immigration Studies (a conservative think tank) claims USDA data showed 7% of eligible households had an “ineligible noncitizen present”. That means the real number of noncitizen recipients is likely below 7%, as many of those households would include citizen children or family members.

Claim: 95% of Warrants for Murder Issued in Los Angeles are for Illegals

This appears to come from a 2005 testimony from Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute to the House of Representatives. In it she said:

In Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide in the first half of 2004 (which totaled 1,200 to 1,500) targeted illegal aliens.

Assuming this statement from over a decade ago is still true, the meme leaves out a key word; outstanding. Outstanding warrants are different from all warrants, or all murders. They are warrants issued months or years prior, but the suspect hasn’t been arrested. It would make sense that illegal immigrants would make up a disproportionate amount of outstanding warrants, since they are harder to track, and are much more likely to flee the country to avoid arrest. There doesn’t appear to be any reliable statistics on current murder warrants, as LA county doesn’t break them down by immigration status.

Claim: Less than 2% of Illegals are Picking Crops but 41% are on Welfare

The Pew Research Center reports that 4% of unauthorized immigrants work in farming, fishing and forestry (they don’t break that category down to “picking crops”). This compares to just .5% of US born workers. The most popular occupations were service (33%), construction (15%) and production, installation and repair (14%).

Since illegal immigrants don’t technically qualify for welfare programs, there are no reliable government statistics on this issue. However, a study from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) claims that 62% of illegal immigrant-headed households receive some form of welfare, compared with 48% of legal immigrants and 30% of native households.

As noted with food stamps above, they qualify for this welfare because at least one other person in that household is a US citizen, generally a child. Therefore, the welfare is really being given to citizens, although some might think that’s a distinction without a difference. Still, it’s likely that this 62% number could be cut in half, if not more, if we’re trying to determine actual illegal immigrants that are benefiting from the welfare. The 41% claim by the meme doesn’t seem completely out-of-bounds, but it’s likely a high estimate.

Claim: More than 66% of all Births in California are to Illegals on Medi-Cal

This appears to be wildly inaccurate. In 2013 (the most recent data we could find), 48.2% of California births were Hispanic/Latina. Obviously, many of that 48% were from legal residents, which would drop the percentage considerably. Pew Research Center reports that 8% of births in the US are to “unauthorized immigrants”, a number that’s been on the decline. One would expect that percentage to be greater in CA, but nowhere near the 66% claimed.

Claim: 60% of all HUD Occupied Properties in the US are Illegals

According to HUD, the number of people receiving assistance under all HUD programs totaled 9.78 million in 2016. This would mean 5.9 million illegal immigrants live in HUD properties, if we are to believe the meme. In other words, roughly 50% of the entire population of illegal immigrants in the US, a highly implausible claim.

According to the CIS study cited above for welfare use, while 62% of illegal immigrant households received some form of welfare, only 3.8% received housing assistance. If we use the Pew estimate of 11.1 million illegal immigrants, that means 422,000 receive HUD benefits, or just 4% would “occupy HUD properties”. If we use the higher estimate of 20 million illegal immigrants, that would mean 760,000 receive HUD benefits, or about 8%. Neither are anywhere close to the claim.

Claim: 39% of all California Students are Illegals

This also appears wildly inaccurate. According to Pew Research Center, 12.3% of California students have at least one unauthorized immigrant parent. The vast majority of these children were born in the US themselves and therefore US citizens. Nationwide, 5.9% of children have unauthorized immigrant parents, while just 1.3% are illegal themselves. If we assume California follows the same trend as the rest of the country, less than 3% of students would be considered “illegals”.

Claim: 75% of Los Angeles Most Wanted Criminals are Illegals

This claim is difficult, if not impossible to check. The LAPD’s Most Wanted List includes attributes like sex, height, weight and ethnicity, but not immigration status. Furthermore, some of the suspects haven’t even been identified, only a sketch and description is given. The Meme Policeman counted 221 suspects on the Most Wanted List. Here is the breakdown by ethnicity, although this doesn’t provide us any reliable immigration status.

  • White- 17
  • Hispanic- 174
  • Black- 21
  • Asian- 7
  • Middle Eastern- 2

As with the outstanding warrants statistic discussed above, one would expect illegal immigrants to be disproportionately represented in on the Most Wanted List, due to their difficulty to track down and their likelihood to flee. After all, these are suspects the police can’t find.

Claim: 50% of all Gang Members are Illegals

It’s not as if gangs have an official registration sheet they send to the authorities, let alone a breakdown by immigration status, but the FBI claims there are 1.4 million active gang members in the US. For the meme’s claim to be true, 750,000 illegal immigrants (or about 7% of all illegal immigrants) would need to be gang members. In their National Gang Threat Assessment, the FBI doesn’t break down gangs by immigration status, and it seems no government agency does.

The closest source to corroborate this claim is, again, the Congressional testimony from Heather Mac Donald, over a decade ago. She says:

No one knows for certain the percentage of illegals in gangs, thanks in large part to sanctuary laws themselves. But various estimates exist:

–A confidential California Department of Justice study reported in 1995 that 60 percent of the 20,000-strong 18th Street Gang in southern California is illegal; police officers say the proportion is actually much greater. The bloody gang collaborates with the Mexican Mafia, the dominant force in California prisons, on complex drug-distribution schemes, extortion, and drive-by assassinations. It commits an assault or robbery every day in L.A. County. The gang has grown dramatically over the last two decades by recruiting recently arrived youngsters, most of them illegal, from Central America and Mexico.

–Immigration and Customs Enforcement conservatively puts the number of illegals in Mara Salvatrucha as a majority; police officers, by contrast, assert that the gang is overwhelmingly illegal.

–Law enforcement officials estimate that 20% of gang members in San Diego County are illegal, according to the Union-Tribune.

While 50% of certain gangs might be illegal immigrants, this only relates to a few in the Southern California area, not nationwide. It also relies from information over a decade old. The claim isn’t completely without merit, but there is no solid data confirming it.


The “Facts!” in this meme range from completely false to plausible but unsourced. Considering how blatantly wrong some of the claims are, there’s no reason to give any benefit of the doubt to the remaining “facts”. This meme is propaganda masquerading as fact.

4 Comments on "Bogus “Facts” on Illegal Immigrants"

  1. you are missing the point. if they are illegal they don’t belong here. Obama spent our veterans money on thousands of military aged muslim men. the woman usually get left behind because they have no rights. last week in Iran they burned a woman to death, chopped another’s head off and we’re about to stone another to death. the pictures of Christians being stuffed in cages and kneeling in rows so they could chop their heads off didn’t happen that long ago. where is the outrage for the christians these people have been slaughtering for centuries. and you are quibbling over how many are doing what? A society where the men are taught at a very early age raping and bombing is normal I DO NOT WANT HERE EVER. Recently I saw a picture of at least 25 imposing looking men in black suits walking holding the hands of very little girls in white dresses. they were getting married. they looked younger than 8 but I am told in the Quran they must be 8 before they can be married or raped. so you can take your idea of how many are getting what off my dime or how many are the criminals. One just one rape is too many. our veterans were committing suicide at an alarming rate from lack of care. thank god that is about to change.

    • Not sure what that has to do with illegal immigration and this meme.

    • You are missing the point–the meme is inaccurate. If you want to make a case for enforcing immigration law, do it, but don’t use lies to make it. That weakens your case, and eventually no one will believe anything you say even when you correct your statistics. See also “the boy who cried wolf” and “fake news”.

  2. Again, I find relief in your work. I have yet to find another such as yourself who is as bipartisan as you are (and as open about your biases as youbseem to be). It makes your work a frequent source for discussions with my friends.

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