A surge in unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America landed immigration issues back on the top of news feeds this summer, renewing discussion on our current system and the potential of future comprehensive immigration reform (or lack thereof). Not unlike any other highly charged political debate, this issue brought out some interesting opinions which needless to say were fueled by confusion and fear rather than actual fact.
Some common misconceptions include the following:
- MYTH: Immigrants will take jobs away from US citizens. FACT: Demand continues to increase for many jobs that not many Americans are willing or able to perform including increasing need for high-skilled workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. Not to mention the countless number of immigrants who are skilled in business and invest in job-creating enterprises in the United States.
- MYTH: Immigrants who are here illegally are probably running from the law or are engaged in illegal activity here in the U.S.FACT: Most undocumented immigrants contribute positively to society and have a clean background. Studies have shown that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than U.S.-born citizens and high rates of immigration are not associated with higher rates of crime.
- MYTH: There’s a way to enter the country legally for anyone who wants to get in line. FACT: For undocumented immigrants, there is no “line”. There are no papers for them to file to get on path to legal status. And undocumented immigrants already in the U.S. have virtually no way to legalize their status. If they leave the country to apply for legal status, current immigration laws bar them from reentering the country for 3 to 10 years, separated from their families (often children and spouses who are U.S. citizens) for over a decade.
- MYTH: Immigrants, whether documented or undocumented, are an economic burden. FACT: Immigrants are essential to the U.S. economy and are a critical part of the workforce. They work hard and perform essential jobs that are vital to keeping the U.S. economy moving forward. In 2010, undocumented immigrants paid $8.4 billion in sales taxes, $1.6 billion in property tax, and $1.2 billion in personal income tax. They also contribute to the Social Security system and they will never be able to receive any benefits from it. Plus U.S. law strictly prohibit undocumented aliens from obtaining welfare, food stamps, or any other type of public assistance.
- MYTH: Most Americans support mass deportations and are against immigration reform. FACT: The estimated 11 million undocumented individuals in the United States is equivalent to the entire populations of Washington, Oregon and Idaho combined. It would be impossible to locate and deport that many people. Even if realistic, a mass deportation would cost billions (over $200 billion by one estimate), translating into $1000 in new taxes for every person in America. Not to mention numerous polls have shown that 60-70% of Americans are actually in favor of comprehensive immigration reform.