Immigration myths

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By Special to The Sun


“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the homeless, and tempest tossed to me. I left my lamp beside the golden door.”

- Statue of Liberty

The United States Constitution proclaims, “All people are created equal.”

Even though these are welcoming words, some immigration laws and attitudes are so contrary to basic principles that our very democracy is at risk. Our country is in danger of losing its identity as a welcoming nation.

Today’s immigrants come from all over the world. Many come because they experience prejudice and mistrust. Drug cartels are dangerous and threaten the lives of others. Drug trafficking across the borders is abetted by U.S. demand for drugs. And despite U.S. employment rates, the demand for foreign workers continues.

False notions, such as “immigrants do not pay taxes” are dispelled by the Cato Institute and others. The Social Security “Suspense File” (tax money not able to be matched to a worker) grew at least $20M from 1990 to 1998.

It is a myth that immigrants come to take advantage of welfare. Actual findings indicate that immigrants come here for jobs, and jobs are looking for workers.

Another myth is that immigrants send all their money back to their homelands. Immigrants assist the U.S. economy due to personal living necessities, and also put $162B into local, state and federal governments. (Cato Institute)

It is also inaccurate to say that immigrants take jobs needed by Americans. The Brookings Institute reports that immigrant business owners create jobs for Americans, as well as for immigrants. They fill gaps between high- and low-skilled workers, and give an annual tax benefit to the U.S. of about $10B. (National Academy of Sciences and the Center for Labor studies.)

The myth “immigrants do not want to become American citizens or learn English” is discounted by the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, who state that 75 percent of the immigrants speak English well in 10 years after their arrival. Demand for adult English classes surpasses the supply all over the country.

Some Americans believe that U.S. efforts at border control have led to higher rates of illegal immigrants. The reason for the influx is often the lack of legal entry processes. (Cato Institute)

The idea that the war on terror can be won by restricting immigration is nixed by the fact that the 911 terrorists were legal. Tougher restrictions demonizing immigrants may even cause immigrants to fear giving helpful information to law enforcers.

In spite of such misunderstandings, and the inertia in our Congress to study and make efforts as compassionate and humane immigration laws, there is still hope. Creating an efficient path to citizenship  and a process of speedy naturalization for the undocumented would help both Americans and immigrants. All workers would have equal opportunity, a living wage and protection under the law. If Americans would study the situation, and view it through the lens of the Golden Rule, intelligent input would lessen tension and lead to a quicker and more humane solution.