Debunking 5 Myths of U.S. Immigration

The Republican Presidential campaign has added fire to the discussions about immigration in the United States. In this blog,  I would like to review some of the immigration myths that are propagated by politicians and offer resources backing up the facts on immigration. It is my feeling that the anti-immigration rhetoric by candidates for president of the United States will affect the learning environment that ELs encounter in our schools. ELs need a supportive school community in order to succeed in school, and anti-immigration sentiments may affect this. It is our job as ESL teachers to learn the facts about immigration and defuse some of these misconceptions in our schools.

MYTH #1: There is a huge increase of the number of immigrants in the United States.

FACT: The number of undocumented immigrants living in the United States has declined from 12.2 million in 2007 to 11.3 million in 2013. According to Homeland Security, of the more than 41 million foreign-born people living in the United States in 2013, about 30 million were naturalized citizens, permanent residents, and legal residents. Of the 11.3 million undocumented immigrants, about 40% entered the country legally and then let their visas expire.

MYTH #2:  Immigrants are responsible for high crime rates in the United States.

FACT: According to a special July 2015 report by the American Immigration Council, immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than native-born citizens.  Incarceration rates among young men are lowest for immigrants, especially for the Mexicans, Salvadorans, and Guatemalans who make up the bulk of the undocumented population, according to the Justice Department. The American Immigration Council presents statistics in its 2015 report to show that high immigration rates are, in fact, associated with lower crime rates.

MYTH #3: Immigrants take jobs from American citizens.

FACT: According to the Immigration Policy Center, there is little connection between immigrant jobs and unemployment rates of native-born workers. Better education and an aging U.S. population have resulted in a decrease in the number of Americans willing or available to take low-paying jobs. Immigrants and native-born workers do not frequently compete for the same jobs. Immigrants are more likely to be employed by the service industry, while native-born workers are more likely to hold jobs in management, sales, and office occupations.

MYTH #4: Immigrants come to the United States for welfare benefits.

FACT: According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal benefits programs. They can not receive Social Security benefits,
Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Medicare, or food stamps. Even most legal  immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for 5 years or longer, regardless of how much they have worked or paid in taxes.

MYTH #5: Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes but still get benefits, including free education for their children.

FACT: All immigrants pay taxes every time they buy gas or purchase other items that are taxed. They also pay property taxes when they buy or rent a house or apartment. (Schools are funded mostly by these property taxes.) A new 50-state study, Undocumented Immigrants’ State and Local Tax Contributions, by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, finds that the 11.4 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States collectively paid $11.84 billion in state and local taxes in 2012. Since undocumented immigrants don’t have the benefit of welfare programs, the ratio between immigrant use of public benefits and the number of tax dollars they pay is consistently favorable to the United States.

About Judie Haynes

Judie Haynes
Judie Haynes taught elementary ESL for 28 years and has been providing professional development for teachers of ELs around the United States since 2008. She is the author and coauthor of seven books for teachers of ELs , the most recent being “The Essential Guide for Educating Beginning English Learners“ with Debbie Zacarian. She is founder of the website everythingESL.net and was a columnist for the TESOL publication "Essential Teacher." She is also cofounder and comoderator of the Twitter Chat for teachers of English learners #ELLCHAT.
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5 Responses to Debunking 5 Myths of U.S. Immigration

  1. T.N. says:

    Thank you for sharing this information. There are many immigrants who struggle with social bias. We should notice that they are working hard behind the scenes.

  2. Laura Lukens says:

    This is valuable information for teachers of English learners to have to counter all the negative rhetoric in the press recently. Thanks for putting this information all in one place. I will definitely share it with my colleagues!

  3. Linda Shepherd Anderson says:

    Thank you! This is great information to help defend our students and their families against the outrageous statements being made in the political media these days.

  4. Shan says:

    Please do specify in the title that your are ONLY debunking myths about undocumented immigrants.

    • Judie Haynes Judie Haynes says:

      Myths # 1, 2 & 3 pertain to all immigrants. # 4 & 5 are especially about undocumented immigrants
      although the myths does also affect those with documents. I feel that the false information being touted by presidential candidates does affect all immigrants in the U.S. Hateful messages harm all of us.