Seven Myths about Immigrants in the United States

In the current political climate, there are untrue claims on both sides of the aisle about all kinds of issues. Unfortunately, immigrants have been the target of some myths in this sphere for decades. These myths have only intensified through the last election cycle. Here are seven common misunderstandings about immigrants.

1. They don’t pay taxes

Not only do immigrants pay their taxes, but their employers contribute, as well. In fact, to the tune of $12 billion (with a B) annually. This was confirmed by the Social Security Administration and even some conservative think tanks—who found the figure to be $7 billion a year when they excluded the employer contributions. This doesn’t even account for the property, sales, and local taxes that they pay right alongside U.S. citizens.

Further reading: Politifact and CNN Money

2. They are all criminals

While some have claimed that Mexican immigrants are “rapists and murderers”, the statistics paint a much different picture. In fact, studies performed over the years found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than those who were born in the United States. The overwhelming majority of them are fantastic family-oriented people. Their presence in our country largely serves to enrich and stabilize communities.

Further reading: NY Times and Econofact

3. They are depleting our resources

One common myth directed towards immigrants is that they are draining our resources. See Myth 1 for a discussion on whether they pay taxes. They do. They also have children, who learn English, get educated, and eventually have incomes higher than not only their parents, but the median income for United States citizens. Furthermore, their contributions to the tax base helps fund welfare for U.S. born citizens.

Further reading: Time and New Republic

4. They don’t want to be Americans

Nearly 1 million people every year apply to adjust their status to become U.S. residents which eventually leads to citizenship. Over the last year, political rhetoric has driven many of these people to naturalize as soon as possible. They want to participate in the American process, they want to vote, and they want to become full members of our society.

Further reading: San Jose Mercury

5. They are overrunning the United States

They U.S. Mexico border has had a net negative immigration pattern for some time. This means that immigrants are returning to Mexico in larger numbers than they are coming into the United States. In fact, over 1 million U.S. citizens live in Mexico illegally—many of them retirees.

Further reading: Washington Post and Pew Research

6. They are taking our jobs

Immigrants aren’t responsible for the change in the employment patterns in sectors like coal mining, automobile manufacturing, steel manufacturing and similar industries. Robotic automation is responsible for taking away the majority of factory jobs in the U.S. As many people already acknowledge, most immigrants are taking the jobs that Americans simply won’t do including farm labor, custodial work, and maid services.

Further reading: NY Times and LA Times

7. They should just do it the “legal way”

“Why don’t they get in line like everybody else?” “I like legal immigrants; just not illegal immigrants.” These are common phrases I often hear from good people who simply don’t understand the complexities of our immigration system. The truth is, there is no “line” to join. The eligibility requirements and processes simply exclude the overall majority of all people around the world. Even a Mexican immigrant who wants to join her U.S. citizen sibling would have to “get in line” for longer than 20 years according to the current system.

Further reading: American Immigration Council and USA Today and Visa Bulletin