The Presidential campaign has resulted in a lot of false information about immigrants — and heated emotion, but not too many facts. Thanks to the American Immigration Council, here are ten myths about immigrants and immigration and the reality behind them. It is not true that:
- Immigrants don’t pay taxes.
Immigrants pay income, property and sales taxes at the federal, state and local levels. They pay an estimated $90 billion to $140 billion in local, state and federal income taxes. Undocumented immigrants often use false Social Security numbers to get paid. The Social Security Administration’s “suspense file” (taxes that cannot be matched to workers’ names and social security numbers) grew by $20 billion between 1990 and 1998.
- Immigrants come to the U.S. to get welfare.
Immigrant workers are a bigger share of the U.S. labor force (12.4%) than the U.S. population (11.5%). As stated, immigrants pay tens of billions in taxes each year and use about $5 billion in public benefits.
- All the money made by immigrants is sent back to their home countries.
Immigrants living in the U.S. pay the same expenses that non-immigrants do: housing, food, transportation, health care, clothing, education, etc. While immigrants do remit billions of dollars a year to their home countries, this is one of the most targeted and effective forms of direct foreign investment.
- Immigrants deprive Americans of jobs and opportunities.
Illegal immigration has suppressed wages of Americans who haven’t graduated high school, according to the New York Times, but for Americans with higher skill and education levels, the results are positive. Undocumented workers don’t compete with skilled laborers — they complement them. Lower skilled immigrant labor allows more skilled workers to focus on what they do best and what makes them more money. In states with more undocumented immigrants, skilled workers make more money and work more hours, increasing the economy’s productivity. By one study, from 1990 to 2007 undocumented workers increased legal workers’ pay in complementary jobs by up to 10%.
- Immigrants drain the U.S. economy.
During the 1990s, half of all new workers were born outside the U.S., filling job openings left by native-born workers in high and low skill positions. The estimated net benefit of immigration to the U.S. is nearly $10 billion annually. Immigrants will contribute an estimated $500 billion toward our Social Security system over the next twenty years.
- Immigrants don’t want to learn English or become American citizens.
More than 75% of immigrants speak English well within ten years of entering the U.S., though demand for adult English as a second language classes far exceeds supply. More than a third of immigrants are naturalized citizens, and that rate is expected to rise.
- Today’s immigrants are different than those of a hundred years ago.
The current percentage of the U.S. population that is foreign-born is about 11.5%; in the early 1900s it was about 15%. As they often do today, immigrants back then settled into neighborhoods with other immigrants, spoke their native languages and started businesses. They have faced discrimination and integrated within American culture at a similar rate. Every wave of immigrants has been met with suspicion and doubt, but eventually every past wave of immigrants has been vindicated and saluted.
- Most immigrants cross the Mexican border illegally.
About 75% of immigrants have legal permanent (immigrant) visas. Of the undocumented immigrants, about 40% overstayed temporary (non-immigrant) visas.
- Weak U.S. border enforcement has led to high numbers of undocumented immigrants.
The Border Patrol’s budget increased six times and the number of agents stationed on our southwest border doubled to 8,500 between 1986 and 1998. During that timeframe, the undocumented immigrant population doubled to about eight million despite the legalization of nearly three million immigrants after the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. The lack of sufficient options for immigrants to enter and work in the U.S. legally has significantly contributed to the issues created by undocumented immigration.
- The war on terrorism can be won through immigration restrictions.
Most of the highjackers involved in the 9/11 attacks were here on legal visas. Since that event, measures targeting immigrants in the name of national security have resulted in no terrorism prosecutions. Several measures could make us less safe, as members of targeted immigrant communities may fear coming forward with information.
If you are an immigrant living in Kentucky call CF Abogados today at (859) 971-0060 or fill out the online contact form if you have any questions about immigration law or to find out what you can do to obtain permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.
Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton
Mr. Fullerton’s practice is focused on immigration law. He speaks Spanish, and represents clients in cases before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He began his career practicing criminal defense, and understands how matters in criminal courts can affect a client’s immigration status. [Attorney Bio]