Immigration, terrorism, and welfare tourism

So we’ve now learned that the Boston Marathon terrorists were welfare bums. Why am I not surprised?

by Daniel J. Mitchell on 24 April 2013 13:45

So we’ve now learned that the Boston Marathon terrorists were welfare bums. Why am I not surprised?

Heck, it was only a couple of days ago that I announced the Moocher Hall of Fame and included terrorists from the United Kingdom and Australia (and I could have included a taxpayer-subsidized terrorist from France as well).

I’m tempted to joke about al Qaeda including welfare applications in their training manuals, but I’m worried that might give them new ideas.

Anyhow, here are some of the predictable details from a story in the Boston Herald.

Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned. State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012… In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.

All this raises a broader point about why the United States has a policy of letting people in the country who are not self-supporting?

This is the point I made in my Fox Business News debate about immigration. Like most other libertarians, I’m very sympathetic to immigration, but I want people with initiative and ambition, not welfare tourists.

Speaking of welfare tourism, even Europeans realize it’s a problem when people come for handouts rather than opportunity. Here’s a blurb from a Daily Telegraph report.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has convinced her counterparts in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands to campaign for tighter restrictions to migrants’ access to welfare handouts and other state-funded services. In a joint letter, the countries have warned that migrants from EU member states are putting “considerable strain” on schools, healthcare and the welfare state…David Cameron has said he wants to restrict migrants’ access to housing benefit, legal aid and the NHS. The letter sent by the four countries warns that the EU free movement directive must not be “unconditional” and that major towns and cities “are under a considerable strain by certain immigrants from other member states”.

Of course, it’s hard to have much sympathy for the politicians in the UK, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. After all, they certainly have the power to reduce their overly generous welfare systems.

But instead of taking that sensible step, they want to restrict immigration.

Which brings us back to Milton Friedman’s warning about the incompatibility of open borders and the welfare state.

But the real reason to pare back the welfare state is that dependency is bad for poor people, regardless of whether they’re native-born or immigrants. Even some honest liberals have acknowledged this problem.

If we want to help the less fortunate, economic growth is the best approach. That means free markets and small government.

And the combination of more growth and less welfare will ease concerns about immigration, so it’s a win-win-win situation. What’s not to love?

Better economic policy is desirable for many reasons, but I’m not under any illusion it will stop terrorism. As I wrote recently, there’s no way to create a risk-free society, particularly when there are people motivated by anti-modernity.

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