Myths About Immigration
don’t pay taxes
taxes, in the form of income, property, sales, and taxes at the
federal and state level. As far as income tax payments go, sources
vary in their accounts, but a range of studies find that immigrants
pay between $90 and $140 billion a year in federal, state, and local
taxes. Undocumented immigrants pay income taxes as well, as
evidenced by the Social Security Administration’s “suspense file”
(taxes that cannot be matched to workers’ names and social security
numbers), which grew by $20 billion between 1990 and 1998
here to take welfare
Immigrants come to work and 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.
In one estimate, immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay
about $90 billion a year in taxes, and use about $5 billion in
public benefits. In another cut of the data, immigrant
tax payments total $20 to $30 billion more than the amount of
government services they use.
“Questioning Immigration Policy – Can We Afford to Open Our Arms?”,
Friends Committee on National Legislation Document #G-606-DOM,
January 25, 1996. http:www.fas.org/pub/gen/fcnl/immigra.html)
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 direct foreign
jobs and opportunity away from Americans
wave of immigration to the U.S. since the early 1900s coincided with
our 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
Richard Vedder, Lowell Gallaway, and Stephen Moore, Immigration
and Unemployment: New Evidence, Alexis de Tocqueville
Institution, Arlington, VA (Mar. 1994), p. 13.
a drain on the U.S. economy
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, start their own
businesses, and contribute to a thriving economy. The net benefit
of immigration to the U.S. is nearly $10 billion annually. As Alan
Greenspan points out, 70% of immigrants arrive in prime working
age. That means we haven’t spent a penny on their education, yet
they are transplanted into our workforce and will contribute $500
billion toward our social security system over the next 20 years
(Source: Andrew Sum, Mykhaylo
Trubskyy, Ishwar Khatiwada, et al., Immigrant Workers in the New
England Labor Market: Implications for Workforce Development Policy,
Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, Boston,
Prepared for the New England Regional Office, the Employment and
Training Administration, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Boston,
Massachusetts, October 2002.
Immigrants don’t want to learn English
or become Americans
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.
(Source: American Immigration Lawyers Association, Myths & Facts in the
Immigration Debate”, 8/14/03. http://www.aila.org/contentViewer.aspx?bc=17,142#section4)
Romero and Janet Elder, "Hispanics in the US Report Optimism" New
York Times, (Aug. 6, 2003).
immigrants are different than those of 100 years ago
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.
(Source: Census Data:
cross the border illegally
Department of Homeland Security http://uscis.gov/graphics/shared/statistics/index.htm)
border enforcement has lead to high undocumented immigration
From 1986 to
1998, the Border Patrol’s budget increased six-fold 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 undocumented immigrant population doubled in that timeframe, 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 in need of workers, has
significantly contributed to this current conundrum.
Immigration and Naturalization website:http://www.ncjrs.org/ondcppubs/publications/enforce/border/ins_3.html)
The war on
terrorism can be won through immigration restrictions
expert since September 11th, 2001 has said that
restrictive immigration measures would have prevented the terrorist
attacks—instead, the key is effective use of good intelligence.
Most of the 9/11 hijackers were here on legal visas. 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.
Associated Press/Dow Jones Newswires, “US Senate Subcommittee Hears
Immigration Testimony”, Oct. 17, 2001.)
Institute: “Don’t Blame Immigrants for Terrorism”, Daniel Griswold, Assoc. Director of Cato Institute’s Center for
Trade Policy Studies http://www.cato.org/dailys/10-23-01.html)
About The Author
Leo Anchondo is the National Manager of the Justice for Immigrants campaign.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.
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