Myths and Facts About Immigration

In many areas, discussions about immigrants are often rooted in anecdotal evidence, sketchy data and personal perceptions. Thus, it is often hard to get at the truth. People who are usually logical and rational begin making statements that are based on emotion rather than on facts. Also, local politicians rush into ill-considered policies that in the long run may do more harm than good. Here are some myths and facts that relate to the immigration issue:

Myth: Immigrants cause an increase in the crime rate.

Fact: In a University of California-Irvine study released in February of this year, researchers concluded that “Since 1994, violent crime in the United States has declined 34 percent, and property crime has fallen 26 percent. At the same time the illegal immigrant population has doubled to around 12 million.” The authors of the study went on to say, “The misperception that immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, are responsible for higher crime rates is deeply rooted in American public opinion and is sustained [merely] by media anecdotes and popular myths.”

Myth: Lower real estate values are attributable to immigrants.

Fact: During the past few years, many communities experienced a real estate “bubble” of inflated values which, according to Wikipedia, “is a type of economic bubble that occurs periodically in local or global real estate markets. The housing bubble in the U. S. was caused by historically low interest rates, poor lending standards and a mania for purchasing homes. It reached its peak in 2005 – 2006 and has been deflating and accelerating since.”

Myth: Immigrants bring in diseases, particularly tuberculosis.

Fact: This may be true for immigrants from Africa, Eastern Europe and the Indian sub-continent. According to the World Health Organization, Swaziland has a TB rate of 469 per 100,000 population. Other countries with high rates include Namibia [290], Botswana [259], Cambodia [226], the Philippines [132] and Bangladesh [105]. Mexico, in contrast, has a rate of only 13 per 100,000-less than relatively modern countries such as Saudi Arabia [18] and the Bahamas [17]. Still, mindful of these numbers, the Centers for Disease Control concluded that “Successful integration of migrant populations into their new communities’ health-care systems is critical to the prevention and control of new and reemerging infectious diseases.”

Myth: Undocumented immigrants are taking jobs that should go to U. S. citizens.

Fact: Overwhelmingly, Hispanic immigrants work in agriculture in back-breaking jobs that native-born Americans shun. Others work in landscaping, construction, custodial work and food service. With the national unemployment rate at only 4.6 percent [3 percent in the greater Washington area] there is a shortage of workers in all fields. It is in the interest of the United States to have more, not fewer workers to maintain the nation’s economic growth.

Myth: Undocumented immigrants want the benefits of citizenship without “waiting in line” for immigration approval.

Fact: Undocumented immigrants want to work to earn money for themselves and to send back to their native countries to care for their families. They do not care about owning property, voting, serving on the school board or running for public office. They pay sales taxes when they buy goods and property taxes through their rent payments. They are willing to pay income taxes as independent contractors or as regular employees. They do not expect welfare, Social Security or Medicare benefits. They merely seek temporary [renewable] work permits that will clarify their status in the workforce and allow them to earn a living.