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Dispelling Myths about Immigration

Myth: They’re Changing Our America.

Fact: We Are All American Dreamers.

Immigrants in this country have forged the American Dream and they continue to define it.

  • Foreign-born immigrants make up no greater percentage of the U.S. population today than they did 160 years ago.
  • America was settled by immigrants who were often prisoners,paupers, undesirables, political instigators and a general nuisance to their home nations, though some bravely came seeking freedom from oppression.
  • Many were just dumped here as punishment. Turns out all the adversity seems to have made them tough enough to beat back the British, come together for a common cause despite different backgrounds, religions, cultures and languages to create a nation.
  • And the American Dream was born: Come from nothing, work hard, believe in freedom as an ideal, not a birthright, and become your dream. And with each new wave of immigrant arrivals, the nation evolved into what it is today – diverse, innovative, resilient and prosperous.

Myth: They’re Taking Our Jobs.

Fact:  We Carry America’s Economy.

TheU.S. doesn’t contain a fixed number of jobs. Immigrants typically do not compete for jobs with native-born workers, and immigrants create jobs as entrepreneurs, consumers and taxpayers.

  • Without immigrants and their children, the U.S. will suffer at least an 8% drop in the labor force in the next 20 years.
  • One-quarter of new businesses are started by immigrants.
  • Immigrants give a slight boost to the average wages of Americans by increasing their productivity and stimulating investment.
  • When the complaint is that undocumented immigrants accept lower wages, then the remedy is to make these workers legal and get them out of the shadows where they’re so readily exploited.
  • Americans need more immigrants because our population is aging and facing an economic crisis: Roughly 76-million Baby Boomers (nearly one-quarter of the U.S. population) are reaching retirement age, jeopardizing Social Security and Medicare.
  •  As a smaller number of workers and tax payers support a growing number of retirees, immigrants will play a critical role inreplenishing the labor force and the tax base.

MYTH: They’re All Criminals – Starting with the Crime of Entering the Country Illegally.

FACT:  We’re Families Fleeing Despots and Criminals for a Nation of Laws.

Immigration does not cause crime rates to rise, and immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than native-born Americans.

  • Immigrants, both legal and undocumented, commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.
  • The majority of immigrants are here legally.
  • Most who are without proper documentation have over stayed their visas.
  • Illegal entry into the country is a misdemeanor.
  • Unlawful presence is not a crime; it’s a violation of federal immigration law and is punishable by civil penalties.
  • Trying to enter the country at legal entry points and asking for asylum is definitely not a crime and is protected by national and international law.
  • Since 1990, the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9% to 13.1% and the number of unauthorized immigrants tripled from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. During the same period, FBI data indicate that the violent crime rate declined 48% and property crime rate fell 41%.
  • A report fromthe conservative Americas Majority Foundation found that crime rates are lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates.

Myth: They’re Draining Our Social Services Programs and Don’t Pay Taxes.   

Fact: We Give Back Far More Than We Take.

Historically, new immigrants pay more in taxes than they have taken in terms of public assistance. They often revitalize communities by bringing more jobs and higher salaries through their skills and entrepreneurship.

  • According to theSSA, undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion in payroll taxes into the SocialSecurity Trust Funds in 2010 alone.
  • The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that households headed by undocumented immigrants paid $11.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2016.They also pay sales taxes and property taxes — even if they rent housing.
  • More than half of undocumented immigrants have federal and state income tax, Social Security,and Medicare taxes automatically deducted from their paychecks.
  • The tax payments of undocumented immigrants would be significantly greater if they had legal status.
  • According toITEP, if undocumented immigrants were allowed to work legally in the UnitedStates, they would pay $13.8 billion in state and local taxes — an increase of$2.1 billion over what they pay now.
  • Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefit programs, and even legal immigrants face stringent eligibility restrictions. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefits such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Medicare or food stamps. Even most legal immigrants have to be in the States for five years or longer.
  • Given these restrictions, it is not surprising that U.S. citizens are more likely to receive public benefits than are non citizens.

Myth: They Don’t Want To Fit In.

Fact:   We Face Incredible Hardships Just To Become Americans.

The nation has always been plagued by anti-immigrant sentiment, but the idea of who is good and who is bad has been fomenting for the last 100 years.

  • The right type of immigrant doesn’t seem to be based on status but more on a fear of otherness. Getting past that otherness requires sharing workplaces, schools, churches and all aspects of everyday life.
  • It will be increasingly harder to defend stereotypes. Already one in seven U.S.residents is an immigrant.
  • Despite the hateful rhetoric emanating from the political right, a record high of 75% of Americans say immigration is a good thing for the country.
  • Why would immigrants suffer what they do to get here if they didn’t truly believe in the American ideal?
  • The greatest threat to assimilation for the roughly 11-million undocumented is their illegal status.
  • Two-thirds of these immigrants have been in the country for more than a decade, so inevitably there have been degrees of assimilation: 64% are employed, half already speak English and almost one-third own homes, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
  • Undocumented status is the biggest barrier to further integrating into American society.Integration and upward mobility are most apparent among the children of immigrants.
  • Total assimilation should not be the nation’s goal. What makes America unique is the vast richness of our multi-layered traditions, cultures, religions, languages,art and cuisine.

Myth: They Won’t Get In Line.

Fact: We See No Line, Just a Maze of Intimidating Obstacles.

Currently there are more barriers than ever before. The backlog of Immigration cases exceeds 700,000 and continues to rise.

  • What immigrants now face is a dysfunctional bureaucratic maze that is incredibly difficult to navigate without attorneys and sufficient resources to pay for background checks and processing fees totaling some $2000and a minimum five years in the U.S. to first get a green card and finally become a resident. The paperwork process can take decades and there is no guarantee of success.
  • For those fleeing violence and crime, options are limited and time is critical. They have every right to ask for asylum at designated ports of entry. Now many asylum-seekers are being turned away or wait days in line, camping in the open and facing new dangers. Those who are desperate may resort to crossing illegally.
  • The United Stated Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) notes that “Americans encouraged relatively free and open immigration during the 18th and early 19th centuries,and rarely questioned that policy until the late 1800s.”
  • It wasn’t until 1875 that regulation of immigration was even viewed as a Federal issue.If someone proudly claims their family came here “legally” and settled the colonies, it just means they showed up, stayed and were naturalized.
  •    Naturalization was, however, kept from those who were easily identifiable as nonwhite.
  •    It wasn’t until 1870 that people of African descent could become naturalized at all.
  •    In 1882, theChinese Exclusion Act sought to limit the number of Chinese immigrants.
  •    Indigenous individuals living on reservations, who were here first, didn’t become full citizens of the UnitedStates until 1924.
  • Until the1940s, the U.S. didn’t have a policy about would-be refugees and there was no distinction between immigrants and asylum-seekers. Only after World War II left7 million displaced did Congress pass the 1948 Displaced Persons Act, opening the door for 350,000 refugees, and in 1967, the U.S. signed the U.N. refugee protocols, protecting refugees. In the Refugee Act of 1980, a comprehensive system for granting asylum was established.
  • In 2018,roughly 89% of asylum seekers passed the credible fear screening but only 17%were granted asylum in the courts.

Sources:

  • WAPO: “Fixing Immigration Starts with this Easy Step,” Richard V. Reeves/Amy Hu, 8/20/18
  • WAPO: “The Myth of Immigrant Non-assimilation,” by Tomás R. Jiménez, 6/28/18
  • Salon.com: “Seven Truths about Immigration,” Robert Reich, 7/23/18
  • Medium.com: “Debunking the Myths Americans Have about Immigrants and Themselves,”  Hanna Brooks Olsen, 5/29/18
  • Newsweek: “Illegal Immigration: Myths, Half-Truths and a Hole in Trump’s Wall,” Kurt Eichenwald, 10/14/15
  • U.S Chamber of Commerce: “Immigration Myths and Facts,” 04/14/16
  • Congressional Budget Office, May 2013
  • Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post WonkBlog, 6/19/18
  • Pew Research Center, Hispanic Trends, 3/8/18 and  9/18/17
  • WAPO: “Fixing Immigration Starts with this Easy Step,” Richard V. Reeves/Amy Hu, 8/20/2018
  • WAPO: “The Myth of Immigrant Non-assimilation,” by Tomás R. Jiménez, 6/28/2018
  • Salon.com: “Seven Truths about Immigration,” Robert Reich, 7/23/2018
  • Medium.com: “Debunking the Myths Americans Have about Immigrants and Themselves,”  
  • Hanna Brooks Olsen, 5/29/2018
  • Newsweek: “Illegal Immigration: Myths, Half-Truths and a Hole in Trump’s Wall,” Kurt  Eichenwald, 10/14/15
  • U.S Chamber of Commerce: “Immigration Myths and Facts,” 04/14/16
  • Statistica.com: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 2/2016
  • Time: “Who Gets To Be American?”, 11/26-12/3 2018

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