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Abstract

Former president Ronald Reagan's vision of America as this shining city ended Thursday, August 23, 1996, when President Bill Clinton signed his name to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA, considered the most farreaching welfare reform package in history. Although the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the federal government will save over $57 billion between fiscal year 1997 and fiscal year 2002, this welfare reform package profoundly impacts immigrants, particularly legal immigrants. Overall 44% of federal savings (approximately $23.8 billion) stems from denying public assistance benefits to legal immigrants. This new welfare legislation directly conflicts with United States immigration policies. The federal government's need to cut costs, the politicians' finding immigrants as an easy target on whom to place the burden of cutting costs, as well as the desire to deter unwanted immigrants will ultimately undermine this country's ability to remain effectively competitive in the international market for valuable immigrants. Therefore, it is necessary to examine the effects of the Act and the impacts upon both immigrants and non-immigrants. In order to assess the far-reaching implications of the immigration provisions on America's future, the motivation behind these changes must be explored. Primarily, this paper focuses upon the differential treatment that PRWORA affords to citizens versus non-citizens as well as the long-term effects on U.S. immigration policies.