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WASHINGTON – The number of immigrants in the United States reached a new high this year after the biggest five-year increase in American history, according to a study released Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies. Nearly 7.9 million immigrants – about half of them believed to be illegal – settled in the U.S. between January 2000 and 2005, boosting the total number of immigrants in the nation to 35.1 million, the study said. About 1.8 million immigrants during that period entered California, more than any other state, according to the study by the D.C.-based think tank that favors immigration control and analyzed Census Bureau data. The report comes as the House prepares to pass Republican legislation reinforcing U.S. borders, easing deportations and creating a nationwide system whereby employers must check workers’ immigration status. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals And providing ammunition to both sides armed for an immigration showdown in Congress this week, the study found that immigrants in California and across the nation are more likely to receive public assistance than their American-born counterparts. The study said nearly half of all California households receiving food stamps, subsidized housing or other public assistance are headed by an immigrant. And it said immigrants and their children in California are twice as likely to be uninsured, with more than half of all immigrants in the state receiving Medicaid. Nationally, the study found, 28.6 percent of immigrant households use a welfare program compared to 18.2 percent of U.S.-born households, while 47 percent of all immigrants are either uninsured or have insurance provided through Medicaid. “Legalization will probably not solve the problem of welfare use or low income associated with illegal immigration,” wrote Steven Camarota, the center’s director of research and author of the report. “In fact, with regard to welfare use, legalization will almost certainly make the problem worse,” he wrote. Democrats and immigration advocates had mixed reactions. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys, who is at the forefront of trying to enact a guest-worker program and plans to try to attach one to the legislation this week, said he is concerned by high numbers of legal immigrants using public assistance. “I don’t think we should bring people into this country to go on the welfare system,” Berman said. As for illegal immigrants’ affect on public systems, he said, “There’s no doubt illegal immigration has an impact on health services. It’s disruptive. It costs money.” Reshma Shamasunder, director of the California Immigrant Welfare Collaborative, pointed out that while higher numbers of immigrants may receive public assistance, they get less from the system than Americans. At the same time, she said, they contribute more in Social Security and other taxes. The average U.S.-born Californian receives $1,212 annually from public assistance programs while non-citizens receive $474, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Meanwhile, Shamasunder said, the average immigrant-headed household in the state contributes $2,679 to Social Security, about $530 more than the average U.S.-born household. “You’re really talking about a highly productive and employed population. These are not people who are sitting at home waiting to get welfare,” she said. “Immigrant or not, there is no easy access to health care. There’s other parts of our system that are broken, and it has nothing to do with whether a person is an immigrant or not.” Camarota noted in the report that high rates of uninsured and use of public assistance “is not caused by an unwillingness to work,” particularly among illegal immigrants. But, he said, “The use of welfare programs by immigrants does raise the question of why we have an immigration policy that admits so many individuals who are not self-sufficient.” The report also found that more immigrants lack high school educations than native-born American adults. One of the largest gaps is in California, where four times as many immigrants as natives are high school dropouts. “This huge gap has enormous implications for the social and economic integration of immigrants, because there is no single better predictor of one’s economic and social status in modern America than education,” Camerota noted. Rep. Gary Miller, R-Diamond Bar, said he does not believe legal immigrants should receive public assistance. “You should not have a system where people come here from another country and benefit from current American taxpayers.”— Lisa Friedman, (202) 662-8731 email@example.comWant local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!