Date: Fri, 12 Apr 1996 17:59:31 CDT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Rich Cowan <>
Subject: 13 MYTHS ON IMMIGRATION (reposted)

13 Myths About Immigration

Prepared by Rich Cowan et al. 12 April, 1996


Myth #1. The U.S. is being overrun with immigrants.
Don't always believe what you hear on TV. On a recent episode of ABC's This Week With David Brinkley, Pat Buchanan referred to "five million illegal immigrants coming into this country," "one, two, three million, invading the Southwest," and finally to "two million people walking across your border." In response, the New Republic pointed out that "the actual annual inflow of illegal migrants by air, sea and land is approximately 300,000 according to the Immigration and Naturalization Service."
Myth #2. Immigrants take jobs from U.S. citizens and decrease the standard of living.
Immigrants create jobs and do not take jobs from U.S. citizens. The U.S. Department of Labor has concluded that immigrants keep U.S. industries competitive, increase employment through higher rates of self-employment, and increase wages and mobility opportunities for many groups of U.S. workers. Statistics show that an influx of new immigrants actually boosts the economy. The conservative Alexis de Tocqueville Institute found that U.S. states with high immigration populations have lower rates of unemployment. [DSA flyer, 1995.]
Myth #3. New immigrant legislation will not affect the constitutional rights of legal immigrants and people born in the United States.
In California, a new referendum called "Save Our State II" seeks to repeal the 14th Amendment guarantee of citizenship to anyone born in the U.S. Federal Proposal HR2202 would legalize the concept that "Non-citizen immigrants (including permanent residents) are not entitled to constitutional rights." Proposals such as these violate the spirit of the constitution which extends its protections to all persons residing within the borders of the United States.
Myth #4. If we let too many immigrants in, America will lose its cultural heritage.
America's cultural heritage is not defined by one ethnic group or race. Nor is this country reserved for any one ethnic group - although racists have often tried to claim it to the exclusion of others. The United States is a nation of immigrants. With the exception of Native Americans, all of us are in this country as voluntary or involuntary descendants of immigrants. Our ancestors come from every part of the globe and have all shaped and contributed to this country. As descendants of immigrants we should understand the importance of allowing people to make better lives for themselves and their descendants.
Myth #5. Immigration is now at the highest level in US history.
In 1910, the foreign born population was 14.7%. In 1994, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the foreign born population was only 8.7%. The only difference today is that a smaller portion of immigrants are from Europe.
Myth #6. Most undocumented immigrants are poor people from Latin America, Africa or Asia.
"The largest population of undocumented persons in the U.S. are Canadians, Irish, Poles, and Russians-not Mexicans or Haitians". [source: "A Progressive Perspective on Immigration,".]
Myth #7. Immigrants do not pay taxes, and drain government resources by abusing social services.
According to the nonpartisan Urban Institute in 1994, immigrants and refugees pay approximately $28 million more in taxes than they consume in services. Not only do immigrants consume very little of welfare funds, they actually subsidize the welfare of others. Immigrants, both documented and undocumented, pay $70-$90 billion in taxes each year and use less than $50 billion in services. Many undocumented immigrants pay more income tax than they owe because they are afraid to file and claim a refund. Despite higher poverty rates, immigrants use fewer public benefits than citizens and are less likely to become dependent on welfare. Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for welfare, food stamps, or most other social programs. And, except for pre-natal care, they do not qualify for government-provided medical treatment, except in emergencies. [source: "A Progressive Perspective on Immigration," Democratic Socialists of America.]
Myth #8. Immigration laws are fair and just.
U.S. immigration laws put strict limits on the number of people who can immigrate from certain countries-countries whose people are mostly poor, and mostly of color. Through these racist laws, our government makes it virtually impossible for people from these countries to even visit the U.S., unless they are very wealthy. [DSA flyer, 1995.]
Myth #9. It's not our fault other countries have problems.
U.S. global economic and military policies have resulted in lowering the standard of living and damaging the stability of Third World countries. This results in increased pressure on people in these countries to immigrate to wealthier nations like the U.S. in an attempt to support their families.
Myth #10. We could accomodate more people before, but now we have overcrowding and economic problems, and have to tighten up our policies.
The United States has the largest Gross National Product of any country in the world, and our population density is much smaller than either Japan's or Europe's. The U.S. is in a favorable position to welcome new immigrants. We can still live up to the ideal written on the Statue of Liberty: "Bring us your tired, your poor, yearning to be free..." (quotation by Emma Lazarus).
Myth #11. The current U.S. economic woes are at least partially the fault of immigrants.
U.S. economic woes are primarily caused by corporate downsizing and capital flight to other countries where wages are lower. To date, there has been no proven relationship between immigration and capital flight.
Myth #12. Undocumented immigrants inflict personal injury and damage on U.S. citizens.
According to the Nation Institute, "there is little evidence that undocumented immigrants are disproportionally responsible for crime." On the contrary, they are often themselves victims of crimes, as they are less likely to report anything to the police.
Myth #13. Nothing can be done to stop the backlash against immigrants.
We can stop the backlash by educating others in the communities where we live, work, and go to school. First, contact an organization that monitors issues affecting immigrants such as the H.R. 2202 proposal currently under consideration in Congress. Read their educational materials to learn about the history of anti-immigrant sentiment in the U.S. and the resources available for defending immigrant rights.

Prepared by Rich Cowan, Michelle Persard, Jesse Hahnel of the Center for Campus Organizing. Tel. 617-354-9363. Email: Thanks to the Democratic Socialists of America for assistance.

For the Organizing Guide for Peace and Justice Groups, send $1 to CCO, Box 748, Cambridge, MA 02142.

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