The Welfare Giveaway in Biden’s Cuban and Haitian Parole and Release Programs

Things to think about when your taxes rise, and when your needy neighbors see their benefits cut

By Andrew R. Arthur on December 12, 2023

I’ve written extensively to explain how President Biden is ignoring Congress’ annual immigration limits by bringing in up to 360,000 Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan nationals per year under his “CHNV” parole program — an abbreviation for the program’s beneficiaries from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. That program is also a welfare giveaway for the “Cs” and “Hs”, thanks to a 43-year old law, and a more recent (from 1996) one intended to limit welfare benefits. If you pay state taxes — and you usually can’t avoid them — this is something to think about when those taxes rise and the benefits for your needy neighbors are cut.

CHNV Parole, in Brief

In FY 2020, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended just 1,227 illegal entrants from Venezuela, 9,822 from Cuba, 4,359 from Haiti, and 2,123 from Nicaragua — 17,531 in total. By FY 2021, however, Southwest Border Patrol apprehensions from those four countries increased more than ten-fold, to 181,000-plus, before skyrocketing to more than 600,000 in FY 2022.

Why did that massive increase occur, and more importantly, why didn’t the threat of expulsion under Title 42 dissuade those migrants from entering the United States illegally?

Because, as a federal judge found in March, the Biden administration has almost categorically refused to detain illegal border migrants, even though the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires it to do so. Thus, the only consequence illegal entrants faced under Biden while Title 42 was in effect was expulsion under those CDC orders.

A key defect in Title 42, though, is that the Mexican government bears no obligation to accept back any nationals other than its own, and increasingly under Biden it refused to receive returning Venezuelans, Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Haitians. Just 12 percent of apprehended migrant nationals from the four countries were expelled under Title 42 in FY 2021, a figure that dropped to 3.6 percent in FY 2022.

That put the Biden administration in a quandary, as the U.S. government has only tenuous diplomatic relations with Havana, Caracas, and Managua, and thus lacks leverage to force those governments to provide the travel documents DHS needs to send nationals of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua back home.

Those migrants knew that once they were here, there was little our government could do to expel them, and that Biden wouldn’t detain them, which is why they came to begin with.

As for Haiti, the political situation there has long been shaky in the best of times and has only gotten worse of late. After receiving political blowback for expelling Haitian nationals back to that country in the wake of a massive surge of migrants into the small border town of Del Rio, Texas, in September 2021, the administration apparently lost its stomach for any major returns to the Caribbean nation.

To hide the massive increase in illegal Venezuelan entrants, the administration implemented a parole program for nationals of that country in October 2022, which it expanded in January 2023 to Cuban, Haitian, and Nicaraguan nationals as well — the CHNV parole program. Under that program, up to 30,000 inadmissible nationals of those four countries are allowed to enter per month, on two-year periods of parole.

Again, the Biden administration could have — and should have — detained illegal migrants from those four countries pending adjudication of their asylum claims, which would have driven illegal entries down. Even with border security on the line, however, the Biden administration still largely refuses to detain illegal migrants.

Cuban and Haitian Entrants

According to CBP, through the end of October 2023, 57,243 Cubans and 107,697 Haitians have been paroled into the United States through CHNV — nearly 165,000 in total. Another 154,000-plus Cubans and Haitians were, as of November 14, in the pipeline to follow them.

Under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), aliens in general aren’t eligible for means-tested public benefits like Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”, better known as “food stamps”), or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (“TANF”, what is commonly thought of as “welfare”). There are exceptions, however.

PRWORA divided aliens into two categories: “qualified immigrants” (including lawful permanent residents (LPRs or green card holders), refugees, and other “protected” immigration statuses); and “nonqualified immigrants”.

Those qualified immigrants were then divided into two more subcategories: those subject to a five-year bar on receipt of benefits, and those who aren’t. LPRs, for example, usually have to wait until they have five years of residence to become eligible, with exceptions for those with a military connection; minors; the elderly, blind, and disabled; and those who have worked for 40 quarters here.

There are a number of other qualified immigrants, however, who are immediately eligible for Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF, including Afghan and Iraqi special immigrants and parolees; certain Amerasian immigrants; aliens granted withholding of removal; Ukrainian parolees; refugees; and victims of trafficking.

Also included are “Cuban and Haitian entrants” as defined as follows in section 501(e) of the Refugee Education Assistance Act of 1980: 

(1) any individual granted parole status as a Cuban/Haitian Entrant (Status Pending) or granted any other special status subsequently established under the immigration laws for nationals of Cuba or Haiti, regardless of the status of the individual at the time assistance or services are provided; and

(2) any other national of Cuba or Haiti—(A) who— (i) was paroled into the United States and has not acquired any other status under the [INA]; (ii) is the subject of removal proceedings under the [INA]; or (iii) has an application for asylum pending . . .; and (B) with respect to whom a final, nonappealable, and legally enforceable order of removal has not been entered. [Emphasis added.]

Consequently, every Cuban and Haitian national who has been waived in under the CHNV program is eligible to apply for Medicaid, SNAP, and TANF, as soon as they hit the streets, as well as every national of either country who was paroled after making an appointment at a port of entry using the CBP One app under the administration’s “CBP One app interview scheme”, and every Cuban and Haitian national who was apprehended at the Southwest border and either paroled or placed into removal proceedings.

They still must show a need based on income, but it’s safe to say that few if any of them have or are headed to a well-paying job in the United States.

‘Federal Medical Assistance Percentages’ and ‘Federal Financial Participation’

Everyone who pays federal taxes in the United States is funding this giveaway scheme, but the costs of Medicare, in particular, fall most heavily on those paying state taxes — things like sales and property taxes — thanks to a calculation done annually by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) known as the Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAPs).

As the department explains, FMAPs:

are used in determining the amount of Federal matching funds for State expenditures for assistance payments for certain social services, and State medical and medical insurance expenditures. The Social Security Act requires the Secretary of [HHS] to calculate and publish the FMAPs each year. 

The FMAP is based on the state’s per capita income, and HHS published the latest FMAP calculations in the Federal Register in December 2022. It shows, for example, that the FMAP for Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Washington, Wyoming, and California is 50 percent; for Florida it’s 57.96 percent; and for Texas it’s 60.15 percent.

By regulation, the FMAP is used to calculate the federal financial participation (FFP), that is “the Federal Government's share of a State's expenditures under the Medicaid program”. Not to get too weedy, but the lower the FMAP, the more the state will be paying for Medicaid—and the more cash the citizens of that state will be on the hook for.

As the Peter G. Peterson Foundation explained in June: 

In 2022, total Medicaid expenditures (including federal matching funds) made up 28 percent of state budgets, on average, making it the largest category of spending. When considering only nonfederal funds, it comprised 17 percent of general fund expenditures, making it the second largest category of state spending after primary and secondary education. [Emphasis added.]

States, of course, must budget for expenditures in advance, and when they fail to budget sufficiently for Medicare, they must make up the shortfall somewhere, sometimes by limiting “optional” care for beneficiaries. This is not simply a fiscal issue, but one that effects the neediest most. 

Don’t Feel Bad If You Weren’t Aware — Unless You Are a Potential Beneficiary

State taxpayers footing the bill for Cuban and Haitian entrants shouldn’t feel bad about not appreciating these costs. The Biden administration never mentions them when lauding programs like CHNV parole and the CBP One app interview scheme. 

The migrants themselves should know, however, because USCIS is very open on its website about the benefits available to those aliens, as are the agencies that administer these programs on theirs. Consider the following, from HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR): 

Are you a Cuban or Haitian individual who has been granted entry into the United States?

You may be eligible for cash assistance, medical assistance, employment preparation, job placement, English language training, and other services offered through [ORR]. You may also be eligible for federal “mainstream” (non-ORR funded) benefits, such as cash assistance through Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or [TANF], health insurance through Medicaid, and food assistance through [SNAP]. This document focuses on the benefits and services that ORR funds. To find out what resettlement benefits and services are available, contact your State Refugee Coordinator: 

It's like they are begging Cuban and Haitian entrants to take the money and benefits. Maybe ORR should spend a little more time taking care of the unaccompanied alien kids Congress has (foolishly) entrusted to its care (an area in which the office’s performance is sorely lacking) and a little less on such PR efforts.

None of this is to criticize the Cuban and Haitian entrants themselves, however. If I were them, I might take advantage of the administration’s largesse, too. Which, of course, is likely yet another reason why tens of thousands of them are lining up at the door. 

But I digress. Here are the key takeaways to keep in mind: Every inadmissible Cuban and Haitian national the administration is allowing to enter the United States is competing with the neediest of Americans for limited welfare benefits, and if you pay taxes — federal, state, or sales — you are on the hook for the tab.