DEBUNKING MYTHS: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Let’s look at what immigration opponents are saying in contrast to the truth. It’s not just what we say vs. what they say; it’s fact vs. fiction. We must have an answer for every strongly perpetuated falsehood in the public domain if we ever hope to rewrite the narrative and tell the true story. We are not they.
STARTING HERE, WE ARE DEBUNKING THESE MYTHS. JOIN US AT UWS WITH MORE MYTHS THAT HAUNT YOU AND NEED TO BE DEBUNKED.
- They’re flooding into the country like never before.
- If they enter the country illegally, by definition, they’re all criminals.
- All of them are here illegally.
- Once in the U.S., they bring more crime.
- They pull down the economy.
- They don’t pay taxes.
- They don’t pay Social Security.
- They drain the system.
- They take American jobs.
- They have U.S.-born anchor babies to allow the entire Undocumented family to stay.
- If they’d just follow immigration law and get in line, there wouldn’t be a problem.
- They should legally enter the country like our ancestors did.
- They don’t bother to learn English.
- They don’t want to blend in and become “Americanized.”
- They aren’t the right kind of immigrants.
- They’ll never fit into the U.S. way of life.
- If they can’t vote, elected officials can continue to discount their importance.
Research Sources: Time’s Rana Foroohar: “Migrants Could Be the Key to a Stronger Economy,” Christian Science Monitor’s Stephanie Hanes’ 2013 “Immigration: Assimilation and the Measure of an American,” Jason Deparle’s 2013 The Atlantic Daily, “Why the U.S. Is So Good at Turning Immigrants into Americans,” Christian Science Monitor’s Jessica Mendoza: “Republican Debate Missing the Point,” L.A. Times Kate Linthicum: “Asians To Top Latinos,” The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute’s Joyce Bryant: “Immigration in the U.S.,” L.A. Times’ Don Lee: “U.S. Surge of Asian Migrants,” Huffington Post Senior Media Editor Gabriel Arana, Economic Policy Institute, New York Times, Center for Immigration Studies, Pew Research Center, L.A. Times, CNN Money Report, Undocumented, Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas’ July interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project, Chuck Todd’s Nerdscreen, American Immigration Council, Emmy-winning journalist/Univision anchor and published author Jorge Ramos, Huffington Post’s “This Land Is Your Land” and Sam Stein & Amanda Terkel’s GOP and the 14th, NPR’s “The Debate Over Anchor Babies and Citizenship,” ABC News, Migration Policy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Congressional Budget Office, American Community Survey, AP’s Russell Contreras: “Trump’s Deportation Idea,” Congress Blog: H.A. Goodman’s 2014 “Illegal Immigrants Benefit the U.S. Economy,” linguistics teacher John McWhorter’s “What Sarah Palin’s Speak American Is All About,” attorney and USA Today board contributor Raul A. Reyes and Claudio Iván Remeseira, NBC Latino, AP’s Alicia A. Caldwell, USA Today’s Alan Gomez.
IMMIGRATION MYTH DEBUNKING BEGINS WITH US
THEY’RE FLOODING INTO THE COUNTRY LIKE NEVER BEFORE
The number of illegal immigrants in the country has dropped from 12.2 million in 2007 to 11.2 million in 2012. Zero migration has been recorded between Mexico since 2011. Southwest border security is 84% effective at a cost of $18 billion. Cost for sealing the border would be $28 billion, the entire Justice Department budget.
Though Mexicans are a majority of unauthorized immigrants (52% in 2012), their numbers and share have declined in recent years, according to Pew Research. As the Mexican numbers continued to drop between 2009 and 2012, unauthorized immigrant populations from South America, Europe, and Canada held steady. Unauthorized immigrant populations from Asia, the Caribbean, Central America and the rest of the world grew slightly from 2009 to 2012.
As a percentage of the U.S. population, the historic high actually came in 1900, when the foreign-born constituted nearly 20% of the population in contrast to 12% today.
IF THEY ENTER THE COUNTRY ILLEGALLY, BY DEFINITION, THEY’RE ALL CRIMINALS
Federal immigration law says that unlawful presence in the country is a civil offense and is, therefore, not a crime. The punishment is deportation. However, some states like Arizona are trying to criminalize an immigrant’s mere presence.
ALL OF THEM ARE HERE ILLEGALLY
Of the more than 31-million foreign-born living in the United States in 2009, about 20 million were either citizens or legal residents. Of those who did not have the authorization to be here, about 45% entered the country legally and then let their papers expire. This percentage is less now.
In 2015, out of 320 million people living in the U.S., 41.3 million were not born on American soil. Of these 11.2 million are believed to be Undocumented. Roughly one out of every eight Americans is an immigrant — the highest percentage since 1920.
ONCE IN THE U.S., THEY BRING MORE CRIME
There is not one single study that indicates a relationship between immigration and violent crime. The crime rate of first-generation immigrants is lower than the overall crime rate among all residents.
In the immigrant population, approximately 1% is found to have criminal records versus 3% in the native-born population. Incarceration rates support this finding with U.S.-born males, ages 18-39, incarcerated at a rate of 3.5% versus a rate of 0.86% for those born outside the U.S. (Migration Policy Institute). The 2010 American Community Survey (ACS) reports roughly 1.6% of immigrant males, ages 18-39, are incarcerated compared to 3.3% of native-born.
According to a Northwestern University study, there is no correlation between immigrants and violent crime. Another study conducted by the University of Massachusetts found that foreign-born exhibited remarkable low levels of criminal behavior over lifetimes.
A new report from the American Immigration Council explains that the evidence has been clear for more than a century: high rates of immigration are associated with lower crime rates, and immigrants are less likely to commit serious crimes or be behind bars than native-born. This holds true for both legal immigrants and the Undocumented, regardless of their country of origin or level of education.
From 1990 to 2013, the violent crime rate declined 48% and the property crime rate fell 41% while the foreign-born share of the U.S. population grew from 7.9% to 13.1% with the Undocumented numbers tripling from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.
The 2010 Census data reveal that incarceration rates among the young, less-educated Mexican, Salvadoran and Guatemalan men who make up the bulk of the unauthorized population are significantly lower than the incarceration rate among native-born young men without a high school diploma. In 2010, less-educated native-born men, ages 18-39, had an incarceration rate of 10.7% — more than triple the 2.8% among foreign-born Mexican men and five times greater than the 1.7% rate among foreign-born Salvadoran and Guatemalan men.
With even the slightest brush with the criminal justice system, such as being convicted of a misdemeanor, the Undocumented can find themselves subject to detention for an undetermined period, after which they are expelled from the country and barred from returning. For years, the federal government has redefined what it means to be a “criminal alien,” using increasingly harsh definitions and standards of “criminality” that don’t apply to U.S. citizens. New classes of “felonies” have been created just for immigrants with deportation set as the punishment for even minor offenses. Immigrants themselves are being criminalized by the system. The result is that the majority of U.S. deportations do not actually target “criminals” in any meaningful sense of the word.
THEY PULL DOWN THE ECONOMY
According to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, advocating on behalf of nearly 3.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses, this segment alone contributes $486 billion to the American economy each year.
Latino consumers’ purchasing power increased from $700 billion in 2000 to $1.3 trillion in 2015, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Ironically, Texas, the lead plaintiff state in the case against President Obama 2014 executive order, would see its GDP rise more than $38 billion over 10 years if the programs were allowed to proceed, while Georgia, another plaintiff, would experience a $190 million increase in tax revenue within five years.
With the 2013 bipartisan immigration reform bill, which passed in the Senate and died in the House of Representatives, the Congressional Budget Office estimated a debt reduction of $175 billion within a decade.
THEY DON’T PAY TAXES
According to the 2010 Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), on average, immigrants pay about 6.4% of their income in state and local taxes or $10.6 billion.
In Montana, the contribution is $2 million, but in California, the figure is more than $2.2 billion. The ITEP estimates that allowing immigrants to stay and work legally in the U.S. would boost state and local tax revenues by $2 billion per year.
The 2007 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) cited IRS figures showing that 50% to 75% of the 11- million Undocumented file and pay income taxes each year.
A 2013 CBO analysis of the failed bipartisan bill that would have created a path to legal status for many Undocumented immigrants found that increasing legal immigration would increase government spending on refundable tax credits, Medicaid and health insurance subsidies, among other federal benefits. But it would also create even more tax revenue by way of income and payroll taxes – reducing deficits by $175 billion over the first 10 years and by at least $700 billion in the second decade.
THEY DON’T PAY INTO SOCIAL SECURITY
Undocumented immigrants contribute more in payroll taxes than they will ever consume in public benefits. They have paid $100 billion into the fund over the past 10 years. Now 3.1-million Undocumented are contributing $15 billion a year with no hope of collecting benefits. They help keep Social Security from experiencing shortfalls and are vital to covering the costs of retiring baby boomers.
THEY DRAIN THE SYSTEM
Since most public benefits require proof of legal immigration status, the Undocumented do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and most other public benefits. Even legal immigrants can’t receive these benefits until they have been in the States for over five years. Citizen children of the Undocumented do qualify for social benefits and the Undocumented are eligible for schooling and emergency medical care.
Non-citizen immigrant adults and children are about 25% less likely to be signed up for Medicaid than their poor native-born counterparts and are also 37% less likely to receive food stamps, according to a 2013 study by the Cato Institute.
A CBO report on the failed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 concluded that a path to legalization for immigrants would increase federal revenues by $48 billion accompanied by a $23-billion increase in the cost of public services with a final surplus of $25 billion for government coffers. By the time the Senate passed a 2013 immigration bill that never even got a vote in the House, the CBO projected reduced national deficits of $175 billion over the first 10 years and at least $700 billion in the second decade.
THEY TAKE AMERICAN JOBS
According to the Immigration Policy Center, a nonpartisan group, research indicates there is little connection between immigrant labor and unemployment rates of native-born workers. Here in the United States, two trends — better education and an aging population — have resulted in a decrease in the number of Americans willing or available to take low-paying jobs. Between 2000 and 2005, the supply of low-skilled American-born workers slipped by 1.8 million. To fill the void, employers often hire immigrant workers.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Americans fill more than 91% of all jobs in this country contrary to the myth that one in five workers is foreign. Lesser-skilled migrant workers don’t negatively impact U.S. workers without a college education. In fact these foreign-born workers create new jobs for Americans. Regarding the fear that Americans with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills are being displaced by foreign workers, employment studies reveal that there are not enough native-born workers to fill these positions.
America needs its 8.1-million (5.1% of the labor force) Undocumented workers (2012). If they were taken from the economy, the loss would translate into millions of lost consumers, entrepreneurs and taxpayers. The economy would actually lose jobs. Second, native-born workers and immigrant workers tend to possess different skills that often complement one another. If many immigrants are willing to start at lower-skilled and poorer-paying jobs, then sectors of the economy like agriculture and housing can afford to expand creating more middle-class positions. Unfortunately, as long as this workforce is undocumented, it can be exploited by employers.
THEY HAVE U.S.-BORN ANCHOR BABIES TO ALLOW THE ENTIRE UNDOCUMENTED FAMILY TO STAY
According to the U.S. Constitution, a child born on U.S. soil is automatically an American citizen. But immigration judges don’t allow immigrant parents to stay in the United States just because their children are U.S. citizens. Between 1998 and 2007, the federal government deported about 108,000 foreign-born parents with U.S.-born children. Until they’re 21, these children can’t petition the government to allow their parents to join them. Though DAPA may address some of these issues, it’s currently stalled in the courts.
IF THEY’D JUST FOLLOW IMMIGRATION LAW AND GET IN LINE, THERE WOULDN’T BE A PROBLEM
There is no “line” for most very poor people with few skills to stand in and gain permanent U.S. residency. Generally, gaining permission to live and work in the United States is limited to people who are highly trained in a skill that is in short supply here, those escaping political persecution or those joining close family already here.
The immigration process is broken, offering few effective options with high costs ($200-$700 plus attorney fees) and wait times that are daunting. The so-called line for immigrants is already 4.4 million people long and the wait, depending on visa type and country of origin, can be decades long. Some immigrants are able to enter the U.S. legally by being sponsored by an employer or family member, applying for refugee status or by securing selectively distributed professional or diversity visas (the 55,000 green cards available to those coming from countries with low immigration rates).
Often times, the wait is intolerable because of poverty, violence and the desire to keep families safe and to be reunited with loved ones already resettled. Many risks all to come and far too many don’t make it.
THEY SHOULD LEGALLY ENTER THE COUNTRY LIKE OUR ANCESTORS DID
During the nation’s first century, the U.S. had an open immigration system that allowed any able-bodied immigrant in if they could find a way to get here. Now there are many more requirements, including higher costs and longer waiting periods.
THEY DON’T BOTHER TO LEARN ENGLISH
While today’s immigrants may speak their first language at home, two-thirds of those older than five speak English well or very well, according to research by the independent, nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. And the demand for adult ESL instruction in the United States far outstrips available classes.
THEY DON’T WANT TO BLEND IN AND BECOME “AMERICANIZED”
Immigrants risk everything to come to the States and then must find a place to live, work and overcome language barriers while dealing with a broken immigration system. Before they can become citizens, they must learn English, American history and take a citizenship test. They work hard at becoming Americans and must do so faster now because of social media and the fast-changing pace of business.
THEY AREN’T THE RIGHT KIND OF IMMIGRANTS
When President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Hart-Celler Act on Liberty Island in 1965, he tried to fix the racist immigration quota system that the U.S. had institutionalized for decades. Until then, we accepted immigrants who were predominately white or northern European (70% were from the U.K., Germany and Ireland). With Hart-Celler, we opened our doors to a much bigger and more diverse world. We also gave priority to those with needed skill sets, refugees fleeing for their lives and relatives of permanent residents or American citizens.
“Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they have poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide.” LBJ
When the Hart-Celler act was signed, the nation was 85% white. By 2043, the majority of Americans will be nonwhite. Over 50% of our children, five and under, are minorities and will grow up in the first majority-minority generation in our history.
So it’s no surprise that those, who have enjoyed the power of majority status for so long, are now feeling threatened by the changing skin tone of the nation. And without being blatantly discussed, this skin-tone fear colors the tone of the immigration issue on every front.
THEY’LL NEVER FIT IN WITH THE U.S. WAY OF LIFE
The truth is the Undocumented are already an integral part of American life. They are everywhere: workplaces, schools, churches, sporting and concert events.
In 2012, children with at least one undocumented parent accounted for 6.9% of U.S. students in kindergarten through 12th grade. A significant majority of these students were born in the U.S. (representing 5.5% of all students in 2012); the rest (1.4% of all students) are Undocumented themselves. The share of these students with unauthorized immigrant parents climbed to 7.2% in 2007 from 3.2% in 1995.
The Pew Research Center estimates that four million Undocumented parents, or 38% of adults in this population, lived with their U.S.-born children, either minors or adults, in 2012. Of these, three million have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more. There are 6.3 million children who live in a household with a DAPA-eligible parent and 5.5 million of these children are U.S. citizens.
For so many of the young Undocumented and U.S.-born children of the Undocumented, the U.S. is the only country they know. It’s already their way of life with the added identity of diverse family histories. What we should be hoping to gain from immigrants is an enrichment of our way of life — opening our country to new languages, cultures, points-of-view, art, sports and cuisines. It’s what every generation of immigrants has brought in rich abundance since our nation’s founding.
IF THEY CAN’T VOTE, ELECTED OFFICIALS CAN CONTINUE TO DISCOUNT THEIR IMPORTANCE
Illegal immigration was a hotly contested issue in the 2016 presidential election. While Democrats largely supported a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants and backed President Barack Obama’s programs to shield from deportation young people illegally brought to the U.S. as children, Republicans largely opposed them. With the GOP now in control of the presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court, the Undocumented are not only left with no path to citizenship, they are facing mass deportations.
The 67% Latino vote was pivotal in Barack Obama’s 2008 election and helped even more in 2012 when he won over 71% of this population. It comes as no surprise that granting a pathway to citizenship for the Undocumented is so fiercely contested. More than 60% of this population live in California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas – all states with electoral clout. Obviously, in 2016 the focus on immigration reform was lost in the cries to build a wall and send them back.
Most of the country’s voters oppose mass deportations and support a path to citizenship. It is up to these voters and all of us to mount a vigorous resistance to endangered immigrant rights and to the current campaign to spread hatred and fear.