Popular culture, the social zeitgeist, common knowledge or whatever else you call it, has people the world over thinking that immigration is complicating socio economic problems. This prompted the US National Immigration Forum to respond with some startling facts to counter the top 10 commonly held myths.
Myth) Immigrants don’t pay taxes
Fact) All immigrants pay taxes and by some estimates between $90 and $140 billion. Even ‘undocumented immigrants’ pay income tax which between the years 1990 to 1998 grew by $20 billion.
Myth) Immigrants come to the US to collect welfare
Fact) Immigrants come to work and reunite with family and the immigrant labour force participation rate is consistently higher than that of native born Americans. Immigrant income tax is typically $20 to $30 billion more than the government services they use.
Myth) Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries
Fact) Whilst it is true that immigrants remits billions of dollars to their home countries, this is one of the most targeted and effective forms of direct foreign investment. More importantly consumer spending of immigrants contributes to $162 billion in tax revenue for the US.
Myth) Immigrants takes jobs and opportunities away from Americans
Fact) Migration has often been inversely proportional to the unemployment rate and immigrant entrepreneurs create jobs for both US and foreign workers. One example are the Chinese and Indian immigrants in Silicon Valley who have generated $19.5 billion in sales and employed early 17,300 in 2000.
Myth) Immigrants are a drain on the US economy
Fact) Immigrants fill gaps in the labour economy a create a net benefit of $10 billion annually. Alan Greenspan points out that 70% of migrants arrive in prime working age and whilst they US hasn’t spent a penny on their education, they will go on to contribute $500 billion to the social security system over 20 years.
Myth) Immigrants don’t want to learn English or become Americans
Fact) Within 10 years of arrival, more than 75% of immigrants speak English well and demand for English classes currently exceeds supply. More than 33% are also naturalised citizens and feel camaraderie with fellow Americans following spikes in naturalisation after September 11 and the 1996 Immigration reform.
Myth) Today’s immigrants are different to those 100 years ago
Fact) The percentage of the US population that is foreign born is 11.5% which is lower than that of the early 20th Century at nearly 15%. Considered historically and objectively, each wave of immigrants is viewed with suspicion whilst the previous wave is vindicated and saluted.
Myth) Most immigrants cross the border illegally
Fact) About 75% of immigrants have permanent visas, of the 20% are undocumented and 40% overstay temporary visas.
Myth) Weak border security led to high undocumented migration
Fact) Whilst border security budget and staff numbers were doubled in 1986 to 1998, undocumented immigration also double in this period. Insufficient legal avenues for migrants compared to the volume of employment available to them has created the current conundrum.
Myth) The war on terrorism can be won through immigration restrictions
Fact) No security expert since September 11th has suggested that restrictive immigration measures would prevent terrorist attacks but improved intelligence. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were in the US with legal visas but since the myriad of measures targeting immigrants, there have been no terrorism prosecutions. In fact these measures may make the US less safe as targeted immigrant communities feel less safe to come forward with information.