A new study shows 51 percent of immigrant households in the United States used at least one welfare program, 21 percent higher than native-born citizens.

After looking at the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the report found immigrants — both documented and undocumented — used a disproportionate amount of the nearly half a trillion-dollar welfare budget for the 2012 fiscal year. While Medicaid was the most popular, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Women Infants and Children food program, subsidized school lunches, food stamps and housing subsidies were also largely utilized.

Even with the exclusion of Medicaid, 44 percent of immigrants use other major supplemental programs, 19 percent more than natural-born citizens.

The study, put out by the Center for Immigration Studies, found the number of households using the benefits sharply inclined to 76 percent when children were added into the mix.

While most illegal and newly legal immigrants are barred from using welfare programs upon arrival, the report shows children are frequently used as a loophole, as they are often not barred from the programs and benefits can be received via children born in the country who are awarded citizenship at birth. The 13 percent allowed into the country for humanitarian reasons were also granted access to the programs

“This should not be understood as some kind of defect or moral failing on the part of immigrants,” Steve Camarota, the study’s author, told USA Today. “Rather, what it represents is a system that allows a lot of less-educated immigrants to settle in the country, who then earn modest wages and are eligible for a very generous welfare system.”

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