8 Of the Most Vicious Myths About Illegal Immigrants

ByKevin Maloney

With an immigration reform bill making its way through Congress, it is time to debunk the myths associated with illegal immigration and shed light on the impact these negative comments have on immigrants themselves. Terms that are bandied about include "anchor babies," "criminals," "job stealers," and more. The full bill can be found at http://www.schumer.senate.gov/forms/immigration.pdf.

1. "Anchor Babies" keep their parents in the United States.

One of the common terms used against illegal immigrants is the term "anchor babies." In actuality there is no such thing. According to statistics, over 108,000 parents of U.S.-born children have been deported over the last decade. Being the parent of a U.S.-born child does not in any way guarantee any right of that parent to stay in the U.S., as the statistics prove. In addition, the child must turn 21 before they can sponsor a parent for legal entry into the U.S. using form I-130.

2. Anyone who illegally enters the U.S. is a criminal.

Only very serious misbehavior is generally considered “criminal” in our legal system. Violations of less serious laws are usually “civil” matters and are tried in civil courts. People accused of crimes are tried in criminal courts and can be imprisoned. Federal immigration law says that unlawful presence in the country is a civil offense and is, therefore, not a crime. The punishment is deportation. However, some states — like Arizona — are trying to criminalize an immigrant’s mere presence. As the laws are currently written, illegal entry into the United States does not make one a "criminal".

3. Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes but still get benefits including free education for their children.

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes every time they buy gas, clothes, or new appliances. They also contribute to property taxes — a main source of school funding — when they buy or rent a house or apartment. In addition, the Social Security Administration estimates that half to three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal, state, and local taxes, including $6 billion to $7 billion in Social Security taxes for benefits they will never get using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number issued to them by the IRS. They can receive schooling and emergency medical care, but not welfare or food stamps as they lack the documents needed for those benefits.

4. There are more illegal immigrants here now than ever before.

As a percentage of the U.S. population, the historic high actually came in 1900, when the foreign-born constituted nearly 20% of the population. Today, about 12% of the population is foreign-born. Since the start of the recession in 2008, the number of undocumented immigrants coming into the country has actually dropped.

5. Illegal immigrants bring crime.

Nationally, since 1994, the violent crime rate has declined 34% and the property crime rate has fallen 26%, even as the number of undocumented immigrants has doubled. According to the conservative Americas Majority Foundation, crime rates during the period 1999–2006 were lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates. During that period the total crime rate fell 14% in the 19 top immigration states, compared to only 7% in the other 31. Truth is, foreign-born people in America — whether they are naturalized citizens, permanent residents, or undocumented — are incarcerated at a much lower rate than native-born Americans, according to the National Institute of Corrections.

6. Immigrants take good jobs from Americans.

According to the Immigration Policy Center, a nonpartisan group, research indicates there is little connection between immigrant labor and unemployment rates of native-born workers. Here in the United States, two trends — better education and an aging population — have resulted in a decrease in the number of Americans willing or available to take low-paying jobs. Between 2000 and 2005, the supply of low-skilled American-born workers slipped by 1.8 million.

7. Today’s immigrants don’t want to blend in and become “Americanized” and refuse to learn English.

In 2010, about 500,000 immigrants became naturalized citizens. They had to overcome obstacles like getting here, finding a job, overcoming language barriers, paying naturalization fees, dealing with a famously lethargic immigration bureaucracy, and taking a written citizenship test. This is not the behavior of people who take becoming  American lightly.

8. There’s a way to enter the country legally for anyone who wants to get in line.

The simple answer is that there is no “line” for most very poor people with few skills to stand in and gain permanent U.S. residency. For about the first 100 years, the United States had an open immigration system that allowed any able-bodied immigrant in. The biggest obstacle would-be immigrants faced was getting here. Today there are many rules about who may enter the country and stay legally. Under current policy, many citizens’ immigrant ancestors who arrived between 1790 and 1924 would not be allowed in today.