At a recent WAND Program, Kate Gessert presented some of the myths and facts that surround the issue of immigration in the U.S. Below are nine myths and their corresponding facts based on the book They Take Our Jobs by Aviva Chomsky. Gessert updated each with information from American Friends Service Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other sources.
Lively and information-rich discussion among those in attendance made for an enlightening and inspiring evening.
Immigration in the U.S. – The Myths and Facts
MYTH 1: Immigrants take American jobs.
FACT: Immigrants typically do not compete for jobs with native-born workers. Immigrants create jobs as entrepreneurs, consumers, and taxpayers, and states with high immigrant populations have lower unemployment rates. Corporations relocating in pursuit of cheap, vulnerable workers are the real job stealers.
MYTH 2: Immigrants are a drain on the economy.
FACT: Immigrants are more likely to pay taxes than they are to use public services. The majority of immigrants, who are of prime working age and ineligible for many public services, contribute far more to the public sector than they use.
MYTH 3: The rules apply to everyone, so new immigrants need to follow them just as immigrants in the past did. Why don’t they just get in line?
FACT: The “rules” generally refer to conditions permitting open immigration of white Europeans from 1880 to World War I. The “rules” have always been different for people of color, whether there are African, Asians, Mexican, or from Central and Latin America.
MYTH 4: The country is being overrun by illegal immigrants.
FACT: Ony 4.3% of all workers in the U.S., approximately 2.8% of the population, are undocumented immigrants; they constitute 19% of workers in agriculture, 17% in cleaning and building maintenance, 12% in construction, 11% in food preparation, and 8% in production.
MYTH 5: The U.S. has a generous refugee policy.
FACT: The vast majority of the more than three million refugees admitted to the U.S. since 1945 have been from just three countries: Cuba, Vietnam, and the Soviet Union. For the U.S., “refugee” has often meant “refugee” from Communism.
MYTH 6: Today’s immigrants are not learning English, and bilingual education just adds to the problem.
FACT: Today’s Spanish-speaking immigrants are learning English just a fast or faster than earlier generations of European immigrants did; they are also retaining their native languages, sometimes at higher rates than Europeans did. Research shows that developing academic skills in students’ native languages supports their acquiring English and strengthens their understanding of the world.
MYTH 7: We need to protect our borders to prevent terrorists from entering the country.
FACT: Most of the 9/11 hijackers were in the U.S. on legal visas. Since 9/11, the many measures targeting immigrants in the name of national security have not lead to any terrorism prosecutions.
MYTH 8: If people break our laws by immigrating illegally, they are criminals and should be deported.
FACT: Immigrants breaks immigration law because it doesn’t match reality, either the U.S. economy’s demand for workers or the strong desire of immigrants to take care of their families. Most undocumented immigrants do not cause harm or even potential harm; they commit victimless crimes because of who they are.
MYTH 9: Immigrants are “killers” and “rapists” bringing crime to the U.S., as claimed recently by public figures.
FACT: Study after study has shown that immigrants – regardless of where are from, what immigration status they hold, and how much education they have completed – are less likely than native-born U.S. citizens to commit crimes or become incarcerated.
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