Myth 1: Children of Immigrants Can Be Deported Even if They Themselves Are Citizens
Reality: All children born on American soil are citizens; they have not immigrated from anywhere and cannot be deported. The 14th Amendment of the Constitution ("All persons born or naturalized in the United States") is clear: those born in the U.S. are citizens.
The following excerpts are taken from the substance of a letter that Donald Kerwin, vice president for programs at the Migration Policy Institute, Washington, DC, wrote to the Editor of the Washington Post, on April 3, 2010:
Some have argued that Congress can deny birthright citizenship to the children of unauthorized immigrant parents. Yet the 14th Amendment's language, legislative history and judicial precedence undermine this claim. The amendment overturned the Dred Scott decision, restoring citizenship to "all persons" born or naturalized in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction.
Children with unauthorized immigrant parents are "persons" under the amendment and subject to U.S. jurisdiction, meaning subject to the nation's authority and required to obey its laws. Unlike diplomats, unauthorized immigrants do not enjoy immunity from U.S. laws. They would not be unauthorized if they did. The congressional debate over the amendment included a dispute about whether citizenship should be extended to the children of foreigners but assumed that the amendment would do so. In 1898, the Supreme Court in United States v. Wong Kim Ark affirmed that the 14th Amendment applied to the children of immigrant parents. In its 1982 decision in Plyler v. Doe, the court held that states cannot deny public education to unauthorized immigrant children, finding that the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause covered "any person" within a state's "jurisdiction" and thus applied to these children.
Any proposals to the contrary would require a constitutional amendment. They would also raise significant public policy concerns. The creation of a hereditary underclass of denizens -- without rights, prospects or status -- would not serve the rule of law or the good of the nation.
Related Myth: Only the United States grants citizenship to all children born within its borders.
Reality: Excerpt of a letter from Lena Graber, Policy Associate at the National Immigration Forum, Washington, DC. to the editor of the Washington Post; it appeared on April 9, 2010.
"Nearly every country in the Western Hemisphere, from Canada to Argentina, grants automatic citizenship to all children born within its borders. As Europeans settled throughout the hemisphere and established new governments, they sought to establish and expand the citizenry of the European-descended population: their own children.
Furthermore, France grants citizenship to nearly all children born within its borders, as do Pakistan, Malaysia, Kazakhstan and Lesotho, among others."
Myth 2: "My Ancestors Came Here by Following the Then-Existing Rules"
Reality: From The Washington Post, May 8, 2006:
"Peggy Noonan, a former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, wrote about her Irish forebears in a Wall Street Journal column: "They waited in line. They passed the tests. They had to get permission to come..They had to get to Ellis Island. get questioned and eyeballed by a bureaucrat with a badge."
"But these accounts are flawed, historians say. Until 1918, the United States did not require passports; the term "illegal immigrant" had no meaning. New arrivals were required to only to prove their identity and find a relative or friend who could vouch for them."
"Customs officials kept an eye out for lunatics and the infirm (and after 1905, for anarchists). Ninety-eight percent of the immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island were admitted to the United States, and 78 percent spent less than eight hours on the Island. (The Mexico-United States border was unguarded and freely crossed in either direction). Shipping companies did the health inspections in Europe because they didn't want to be stuck taking someone back,"
The source for the quotes above is Nancy Foner, a sociology professor at Hunter College and author of From Ellis Island to JFK: New York's Two Great Waves of Immigration. "Eventually, they introduced a literacy test," she added, "but it was in the immigrant's own language, not English."
Myth 3: Immigrants Come to the U.S. Seeking a Life of Ease
Reality: According to the September 10, 2007 issue of the magazine, Workforce Management, almost 1000 Hispanics died on the job in 2006, the largest annual total since the fatality census began 15 years ago. Hispanic workers represented 13.6 percent of the workforce in 2006 but 16.4 percent of all workplace fatalities, with foreign-born Hispanics accounting for two-thirds of the Hispanic deaths. "Like other immigrant groups before them, Hispanic immigrants often take on the most dangerous work in the most dangerous industries. As the communication failures during the Utah mine disaster demonstrated, many employers have not adjusted to the demographic shift."
Ken Schoolland, an associate professor of economics and political science at Hawaii Pacific University, conducted research (The Journal of Private Enterprise, spring 2004) which reflected in overwhelming numbers that both the native-born population and the foreign-born population through the decade of the 1990s moved away from states with the highest welfare and into states with the lowest welfare. He found that while there were some high-profile exceptions, most immigrants seek opportunity, not welfare.
Myth 4: The U.S. Doesn't Need Immigrant Workers
Reality: A March 2006 Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) study of the top 22 occupations in 2005 indicated that the largest share of immigrant employees was 44.7%, and the category was "Farming, fishing and forestry." The largest raw number of immigrant employees was in "Construction and extraction" with 2,209,000 immigrants (26.1% of the total labor force).
The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2010, the U.S. will create 22 million new jobs-nine million more jobs than new workers entering the job market. Beyond 2010, as the "baby boom" generation retires, the deficit of workers is likely to grow worse. More than 60 million current employees will likely retire over the next 30 years. After 2011, the year in which the first baby boomers turn 65, their retirement rates will reach proportions so huge that, barring substantial increases in immigration and/or participation rates among the elderly, there will be a net reduction in the total size of the nation's workforce.
CIS analysis of historical immigration trends indicates that the lure for immigrants is more about attaining a higher standard of living than about the availability of jobs. Indeed, even when the U. S. economy declines and joblessness increases, the flow of immigrants continues. Nevertheless, when Hurricane Katrina's aftermath cried out for workers, immigrants quickly ventured forth and carried out a significant burden of the cleanup and restoration. According to a National Public Radio broadcast on June 2, 2006, these workers, many of whom were undocumented and quite visible, but understandably the government's focus was on the rebuilding not apprehension. The broadcast went on to say that many companies worked through middlemen, or subcontractors, which hired undocumented workers as "independent contractors." This contrived system of working through subcontractors and the use of independent contractors insulated the companies from immigration disregard and from having to pay benefits and social security taxes.
In the Katrina example, when the U.S. faced its most recent and major catastrophe, alien workers became essential allies.
It would seem intuitive that when the combined unemployment and underemployment percentage rates in underdeveloped countries are six times higher than in the U.S., immigrants are stimulated to migrate and take on the most arduous of jobs - jobs they see as stepladders to a higher standard of living.
Myth 5: Native-Born Hispanics Favor Open Borders
Reality: Assimilation of immigrants leads to their taking on the concerns that other Americans have. A Pew Hispanic Center poll of December 2007 on questions about enforcement policies, suggests that native-born Hispanics take positions that are closer to those of the rest of the U.S. population than do foreign-born Hispanics. Foreign-born Hispanics are significantly more positive than the native-born in their views about the effects of illegal immigration.
Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic umbrella organization that represents hundreds of local, regional and national Latino organizations, points out that she and her fellow Hispanics share many of the concerns of their fellow Americans about our broken immigration system, including the need to secure our borders.
NOTE: You can download the study referenced in this myth by clicking here.
Myth 6: Illegal Immigrants Don't Pay Taxes
Reality: In March 2003, The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) reviewed federal taxes paid by immigrants and estimated that contrary to the perceptions that illegal aliens don't pay payroll taxes, more than half of illegal immigrants work "on the books." On average, illegal households pay more than $4,200 a year in all forms of federal taxes. Because immigrants tend to have lower incomes and larger families, however, they tend to pay less in taxes. In 2001, the average legal immigrant household should have paid about $5,800 to the federal government; the average native household should have paid over $7,000.
Immigrants who are in the country illegally are more likely to avoid paying taxes by working off the books. On the other hand, there are taxes other than federal income tax that cannot be avoided. States often get a large share of their revenue from sales and real estate taxes. Seven states have no state income tax: Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Two others, New Hampshire and Tennessee, tax only dividend and interest income. These states rely more extensively than other states on sales and property taxes for their revenues. Immigrants, like all who purchase or consume goods, cannot escape paying sales taxes. But again, since immigrants have significantly lower incomes than natives, they typically purchase less and rent or buy more modest housing, thereby generating lower average tax payments. Some, however, might contend that these immigrants may pay a higher proportion of sales taxes in comparison to their earnings.
With regard to the payment of property taxes, immigrant-residents pay this tax just as natives do, either directly if they own property or indirectly when they pay rent.
It is important to note that 36 states have a progressive income tax, where the rate rises as income increases. Some states reduce or eliminate income taxes on low-income families through an array of mechanisms. These include state Earned Income Tax Credits and other low-income tax credits, no-tax floors, and personal exemptions and standard deductions that are adequate to shield poverty-level income from taxation.
According to the Center for Immigration Studies, poverty among immigrants in general and Mexican immigrants in particular is significantly higher than among natives. In progressive tax states, most impoverished natives and immigrants often pay little or no personal income taxes. In some cases these "tax-payers" are eligible to receive money from the state in which they reside and also from the Federal government. When poor immigrants fail to file income tax returns, they may lose tax credits, which would indirectly benefit regular taxpayers.
Myth 7: Undocumented Immigrants Don't Pay Social Security Payroll Taxes.
On April 5, 2005, The New York Times ran an article about the Social Security Administration's (SSA) chief actuary estimating that three quarters of undocumented immigrants pay Social Security tax, an estimate that makes undocumented workers responsible for about 1.5% of total wages reported to the SSA.
Taxes paid by undocumented immigrants go into the SSA's "suspense file," when the worker's Social Security number does not match SSA's records. In 2002, the suspense file grew by $56 billion in reported earnings, with about $7 billion in Social Security tax and $1.5 billion in Medicare tax paid.
On May 24, 2007, The Wall Street Journal's "Review & Outlook" section, in the Opinion page, offered this perspective, entitled "Immigration and Welfare":
.."As a result, most immigrants contribute payroll taxes for decades before they collect Social Security or Medicare benefits. The Social Security actuaries recently calculated that over the next 75 years immigrant workers will pay some $5 trillion more in payroll taxes than they receive in Social Security benefits."