According to the Boston Herald and other news sources, the family of the Boston Marathon bombers received large amounts of welfare benefits. This calls attention to the policy principle that immigrants should be net contributors to the government and society and should not be a fiscal burden on American society.
“The Tsarnaev family, including the suspected terrorists and their parents, benefited from more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded assistance—a bonanza ranging from cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing from 2002 to 2012,” notes the Herald.
Tamerlan and younger brother Dzhokhar received transitional welfare benefits as children through their parents, who immigrated to the U.S. in 2002 as political refugees. Tamerlan also received benefits between 2011 and 2012 through his wife Katherine, who was receiving benefits along with their three-year-old daughter. They stopped receiving benefits last year when their income exceeded income eligibility requirements.
Tamerlan’s wife Katherine “was working up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while [Tamerlan] stayed at home.”
The Herald reports that Massachusetts lawmakers “are working their way through more than 500 pages of documents on the benefits that Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and their family received.” Additionally, “federal agents are investigating why Tamerlan Tsarnaev…traveled to Russia for six months in 2012—while he was on welfare.”
State Representative Shaunna O’Connell (R–Taunton) says this “has become a national issue, and people are asking why someone who’s out of the country for six months—someone who is on a terrorist watch list—would be getting benefits. When you’re out of the state for two months, your benefits are supposed to be cut off.”
The Herald says that “Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism.” ABC News adds that the time he was receiving state aid “coincides with the years Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly became more radicalized. He was interviewed by the FBI in 2011 after Russia flagged Tsarnaev for his potentially dangerous views.” At the time of the bombing, neither of the brothers was receiving benefits.
The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector explains that as of the late 1990s, “immigrant households were fifty percent more likely to receive means-tested [welfare] aid than native-born households.”
He adds that “immigrants appear to assimilate into welfare use. The longer immigrants live in the U.S., the more likely they are to use welfare.” Rector explains that greater use of welfare among immigrants is often, but not always, due to lower education levels. This wasn’t necessarily the case with Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s father, who “had held high-status government jobs” prior to coming to the U.S. Once in the U.S., he worked as a mechanic. Tamerlan and his wife Katherine Russell had not graduated from college.