Myths About Immigrants

Rich Reinhardt is one of my postulant brothers in the same level of formation as I am. He is also the director of the New Sanctuary Movement in Milwaukee, WI as an outreach to immigrants in this city. Working with the grass-roots group Voces De La Frontera, he has done major work in advocating for the cause of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

This evening he gave me a fact sheet that addresses many of the concerns that people in this country have about immigrants living in the U.S. borders. I decided to share this with all of you, in hopes that many myths surrounding immigration policy can be shown false and true dialogue can begin on the topic of immigration reform.

Myths and Facts on Immigration

"The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie - deliberate, contrived, and dishonest - but the myth - persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic."
-John F. Kennedy

MYTH: Increased border enforcement is the solution.
  1. From 1986 to 1998, border patrol's budget increased six-fold and the number of agents doubled.
  2. During the same time period, undocumented immigration doubled.
  3. "Tougher enforcement" that pushes people to cross remote desert has lead to a humanitarian crisis on the border.
  4. Experts, including the U.S. Government Accountability Office, have concluded that the continual and exponential increase in border-deaths which began the mid-1990's is directly related to an increase in U.S. border enforcement/border militarization. From 1995-2004 between two and three thousand bodies were found along the U.S.-Mexican border.
  5. Causes of death for immigrants crossing from Mexico range from exposure and hypothermia to murder by vigilantes.
MYTH: Immigrants don't pay taxes.
  1. Immigrants pay income, property, and sales tax using an ITIN (individual tax identification number.)
  2. They pay between $90-$140 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes.
  3. They contribute $189 billion worth of wages recorded in the suspense file over the 1990's and two and a half times the amount of 1980's.
  4. They contribute $6-$7 billion in Social Security tax revenue and about $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes per year.
  5. While, as above, immigrants pay $90-$140 billion in taxes, immigrants receive only $5 billion in benefits, mostly through K-12 public schools and emergency medical care.
  6. "Our assumption is that about three-quarters of other-than-legal immigrants pay taxes." (--Stephen C. Goss, Social Security's chief actuary, using the agency's term for undocumented immigrants.)
MYTH: Immigrants take jobs from American workers.
  1. Immigrants have no net impact on unemployment rates. In states with the highest concentration of undocumented people there are actually lower unemployment rates.
  2. Immigrants help create jobs through consumerism in automotive sales, electronic sales, restaurants, etc.
  3. The Pew Hispanic Center has reported that, "Rapid increases in foreign-born population at the state level are not associated with negative effects on the employment of native-born workers.
MYTH: Immigrants don't want to learn English.
  1. Demand for English classes at an adult level far exceeds the supply.
  2. Within 10 years of arrival, 75% of immigrants speak English well.
  3. 98% of Latino/Hispanic immigrants say it is important to teach their children English.
  4. The rate at which immigrants today develop proficiency in English mirrors that of 19th and 20th century German, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants.
  5. 91% of second-generation immigrants and 97% of third-generation immigrants are fluent or nearly fluent English speakers.
MYTH: Immigrants increase the crime rate.
  1. Immigrants commit fewer crimes than native born Americans.
  2. From 1994 to 2005 violent crime decreased by 34% and property crime by 32% as the immigrant population doubled.
  3. First-generation immigrants are 45% less likely to commit violent crimes than Americanized, third-generation immigrants.

This fact sheet borrowed heavily from the website of Justice for Immigrants: The Catholic Campaign for Immigration Reform (under USCCB). Their website is Most of the original sources can be found there.

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2 Response to Myths About Immigrants

May 11, 2009 at 4:37 AM

Greetings Br. Vito. I found this entry to be very useful and might use it. Hope you don't mind. I have a friend who thinks immigrants cause problems that's why.

I would like your permission to add your blog to my site's interesting.

I am a fellow Catholic that is currently discerning whether to enter the diocesan seminary or join the Capuchin Friars. Please pray for me that God will reveal His will to myself. I will also pray for you during your formation process.

I wish you a very blessed week!

"The Lord bless you and keep you.
May He show His face to you and have mercy.
May He turn His countenance to you and give you peace.
The Lord bless you!" -Blessing of St. Francis

Qualis Rex
June 29, 2009 at 6:34 PM

Hello Br. Vito! I think "immigrants" is a rather broad term and subject. I think the real concerns people have (unless they are just incredible xenophobes) is ilegal immigrants as opposed to immigrants in general.

I was involved in the sanctuary movement from 1984 - 1986 and pretty much swallowed all of what Liberation Theologians fed us. I now see there is a much larger cause and effect at work here and the solution cannot be simply "open borders". But definitely good post and thoughts here.