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Bronze-level articleMyths and facts about immigration to the United States

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Most of the complaints made by anti-immigration activists regarding the status of illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States are based on exaggeration, misconception, myths and outright lies. As with most things, many of the complaints are real for a very small number of illegal immigrants, but by and large, they do not apply to most of the illegal immigration into this country.

Further, those who oppose illegal immigration tend to focus their rhetoric on emotional issues, such as claims that illegal immigrants are "taking our jobs" and "threatening our security;" but the evidence they provide in favor of these claims is very scanty, and they only seem to have one "solution" of the problem, viz., "kick the wetbacks out," which if there were no other objections to it would cause major damage to the U.S. economy.


[edit] The myths

[edit] Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes

  • Immigrants pay property taxes either via home ownership or rental, as well as sales tax when purchasing goods in the U.S. Depending on their employers, the immigrants also pay federal, state, and local income taxes. However, since illegal immigrants cannot legally be employed, they are often employed "off the books" in casual or seasonal work and are paid in cash, without taxes deducted and often below minimum wage. Employers often threaten to report immigrant workers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement if the worker complains about wages or working conditions.[1]
  • Since illegal immigrants often have fake or stolen documents (especially Social Security numbers), they often cannot benefit from Social Security taxes withheld from wages. The amount in question is evidenced by the Social Security Administration’s “suspense file” (taxes that cannot be matched to workers’ names and Social Security numbers), which grew $20 billion between 1990 and 1998.[2][3]

[edit] Immigrants come here to get "welfare"

  • Immigrants come to work and to reunite with family members.
  • Immigrant labor-force participation is consistently higher than native-born, and immigrant workers make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force (12.4%) than they do the U.S. population (11.5%). Moreover, the ratio between immigrant use of public benefits and the amount of taxes they pay is consistently favorable to the U.S., unless the “study” was undertaken by an anti-immigrant group. One study estimates that immigrants earn nearly $240 billion a year. Studies find that immigrant tax payments total $20 to $85 billion more than the amount of government services they use.[4]
  • Since the welfare reform of 1996, when limits were implemented cutting off benefits to two years consecutively or five years cumulatively, this is a bogus accusation.
  • To immigrate into the US, you must have a sponsor (generally the family member, such as the spouse, bringing you into the country) who will testify, and provide proof, that he or she has enough money to support you, if you are unable to support yourself, or if you lose your job. This agreement means that until you naturalize as a U.S. citizen or have been a taxpayer for 10 years, your sponsor's income will be taken into consideration in deciding whether you are poor enough to qualify for means-tested benefits, and that if you do take those benefits, the government can sue your sponsor to recover those costs. You can also sue your sponsor if they fail to support you at the poverty level.

[edit] Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries

  • In addition to the consumer spending of immigrant households, immigrants and their businesses contribute $162 billion in tax revenue to U.S. federal, state, and local governments. While it is true that immigrants remit billions of dollars a year to their home countries, this is one of the most targeted and effective forms of foreign direct investment[wp].[5]
  • Also, if you are going to complain that immigrants send money back to their home countries, you have to also raise a stink that very often, the rich offshore their money in foreign banks.

[edit] Immigrants take jobs and opportunity away from Americans

  • The largest wave of immigration to the U.S. since the early 1900s coincided with the lowest national unemployment rate and fastest economic growth. Immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs for U.S. and foreign workers, and foreign-born students allow many U.S. graduate programs to keep their doors open. While there has been no comprehensive study done of immigrant-owned businesses, we have countless examples: in Silicon Valley, companies begun by Chinese and Indian immigrants generated more than $19.5 billion in sales and nearly 73,000 jobs in 2000.[6]
  • Illegal immigrants, as well as legal immigrants with little job skills or language skills often take the work seen by most Americans as "beneath them." Janitorial services, crop pickers and garbage collectors need workers, and they do not find them from high-school-educated, English-speaking citizens. As a demonstration of this fact, in Georgia, a 2011 crackdown on illegal immigrants caused many to be deported and more to flee the state. This caused a shortage of labor on the state's farms, indicating that illegal immigrants in that state do not compete very much with Americans for jobs.

[edit] Immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy

  • During the 1990s, half of all new workers were foreign-born, filling gaps left by native-born workers in both the high- and low-skill ends of the spectrum.
  • Immigrants fill jobs in key sectors and create jobs by establishing their own businesses, with an estimated annual benefit of $10 billion to the U.S. economy. According to Alan Greenspan, 70% of immigrants arrive when they are of prime working age.[7]
  • Due to welfare reform, legal immigrants are severely restricted from accessing public benefits, and illegal immigrants are even further precluded from anything other than emergency services. Anti-immigrant groups skew these figures by including programs used by U.S. citizen children of immigrants in their definition of immigrant welfare use, among other tactics.

[edit] Immigrants don’t want to learn English or become Americans

  • Within ten years of arrival, more than 75% of immigrants speak English well; moreover, demand for English classes at the adult level far exceeds supply. Greater than 33% of immigrants are naturalized citizens; given increased immigration in the 1990s, this figure will rise as more legal permanent residents become eligible for naturalization in the coming years. The number of immigrants naturalizing spiked sharply after two events: enactment of immigration and welfare reform laws in 1996, and the terrorist attacks in 2001.[8]

[edit] Today’s immigrants are different than those of 100 years ago

NYT ad 1854 including "No Irish Need Apply"
  • In the sense that they are coming to America from different parts of the world that is true. However, the percentage of the U.S. population that is foreign-born now stands at 11.5%; in the early 20th century it was approximately 15%. Similar to accusations about today’s immigrants, those of 100 years ago initially often settled in mono-ethnic neighborhoods, spoke their native languages, and built up newspapers and businesses that catered to their fellow émigrés. They also experienced the same types of discrimination that today’s immigrants face, and integrated within American culture at a similar rate. If we view history objectively, we remember that every new wave of immigrants has been met with suspicion and doubt and yet, ultimately, every past wave of immigrants has been vindicated and saluted.[9]

[edit] Most immigrants cross the border illegally

  • Around 75% have legal permanent (immigrant) visas; of the 25% that are here illegally, 40% overstayed temporary (nonimmigrant) visas.[10]

[edit] Weak U.S. border enforcement has led to high levels of illegal immigration

  • From 1986 to 1998, the Border Patrol’s budget increased sixfold and the number of agents stationed on our southwest border doubled to 8,500. The Border Patrol also toughened its enforcement strategy, heavily fortifying typical urban entry points and pushing migrants into dangerous desert areas, in hopes of deterring crossings. Instead, the illegal immigrant population doubled in that period, to 8 million - despite the legalization of nearly 3 million immigrants after the enactment of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. Insufficient legal avenues for immigrants to enter the U.S., compared with the number of jobs available to them, have created this current conundrum.[11]

[edit] The war on terrorism can be won through immigration restrictions

  • No security expert since September 11, 2001 has said that restrictive immigration measures would have prevented the terrorist attacks—instead, the key is good use of good intelligence. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were here on legal tourist or student visas (but some did overstay on those). Since 9/11, the myriad of measures targeting immigrants in the name of national security have netted no terrorism prosecutions. In fact, several of these measures could have the opposite effect and actually make us less safe, as targeted communities of immigrants are afraid to come forward with information.[12]

[edit] Illegal immigrants are the source of many communicable diseases

  • Anti-immigrant advocates including Lou Dobbs have claimed that Mexican border-crossers are the source of a rampant increase in leprosy. CDC and Department for Health and Human Services statistics do not bear this myth out.[13]

[edit] Illegal immigrants cause crime

  • Whilst a common cry of the anti immigration brigade - and the font of endless anecdotal "evidence" - the facts don't support this. According to FBI statistics in Arizona in 2008, despite the increased presence of illegal immigrants, crime rates have actually dropped, while the population has increased[14]. Only 8% of the prison population are immigrants, which also includes legal immigrants as well.[15]

[edit] The government is not enforcing existing immigration laws

  • By September 2011, the number of removed illegal immigrants from the United States during the Obama administration exceeded the number of removals during the entire George W. Bush administration.[16]
  • It would be difficult, if not impossible, for the government to round up and deport every illegal immigrant. The agency responsible for doing so, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has limited resources (finances, officers, jail spaces etc.) and must prioritize how they are spent (as well as figuring out how to spend resources on enforcing US Customs laws).[17] A migrant farm laborer's family probably is not as high on ICE's priority list for deportation as as a major drug trafficker might be. Furthermore, aliens involved in deportation proceedings are entitled to due process regardless of their status in the United States.[18]

[edit] Problems that arise when blanket deportation is attempted

  • It's fair to assume that industries that are largely dependent on the hard work of illegal immigrants would collapse, or at least suffer a major setback.
  • The cost of the program would be massive; law enforcement would need a huge amount of extra resources and manpower to put deportation into practice, and the courts (y'know, due process and all that) would also have a shortage of money and labor.
  • Many children of immigrants are natural-born US citizens, via the 14th Amendment's Citizenship clause. Hence, blanket deportation of illegal immigrants would involve expelling the parents of citizens, leaving millions with the choice of what amounts to exile (at least until they're adults) or living as orphans. And it brings up another logistical nightmare as many deported parents may choose to leave their children behind for what seems like a brighter future, dumping a massive load onto an already overburdened foster care system.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

  1. ICE, "[http://www.ice.gov/worksite Worksite Enforcement]. "ICE also investigates employers who employ force, threats or coercion (for example, threatening to have employees deported) in order to keep the unauthorized alien workers from reporting substandard wage or working conditions."
  2. Eduardo Potter, "Illegal Immigrants Are Bolstering Social Security With Billions." New York Times: April 5, 2005.
  3. http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8711/12-6-Immigration.pdf page 14 of this Congressional Budget Office paper
  4. Questioning immigration policy: Can we afford to open our arms? Friends Committee on National Legislation Document #G-606-DOM. January 25, 1996
  5. Cato Institute, Inter-American Development Bank
  6. Brookings Institution
  7. Imported Talent Foreign Immigration and the New England Labor Market
  8. U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Homeland Security (Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services)
  9. U.S. Census Bureau
  10. INS Statistical Yearbook
  11. Cato Institute
  12. Newspaper articles, various security experts, and think tanks, prepared by the National Immigration Forum, June 2003
  13. American Immigration Lawyers Association, MYTH: Undocumented Immigrants Bring Communicable Diseases Into the Country, Colorado Media Matters report.
  14. http://articles.cnn.com/2010-04-29/justice/arizona.immigration.crime_1_sen-russell-pearce-illegal-immigration-immigration-law?_s=PM:CRIME
  15. http://immigration.lohudblogs.com/2009/06/24/fact-check-illegal-immigrants-and-crime/
  16. http://articles.businessinsider.com/2011-09-21/politics/30183509_1_immigrants-with-criminal-records-unauthorized-immigrant-illegal-immigrants
  17. http://www.ice.gov/
  18. Zadyvas v. Davis. US Supreme Court case.
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