Myth 15: "Illegal Immigrants are Invaders."
Reality: They are not invaders, they are looking to integrate - to become part of the United States. The definition of "invader" is someone who enters by force in order to conquer. It is true that millions of undocumented workers have entered our country illegally -- but not by force. They came to work in order to improve their lives and to support families. It is they who harvest most of the food we eat and do so under challenging conditions. They do jobs few Americans will do. In addition to farm work, they provide scores of services to millions of Americans as landscape workers, dishwashers, hotel maids and they help build roads and houses. These are not the actions of "invaders."
Perhaps the term is used because of the vast scope of the number of undocumented aliens now in the country. But how did that number get to be so large? Were there accomplices? Did the government turn a blind eye to the protection of its borders in order to aid the economy through cheap labor? Could there be such an enormous number of undocumented workers without the complicity of American businesses plus the end-users, that is, consumers?
Throughout our history, immigrants such as the English, Irish, Germans, Polish, Italians and Chinese have brought great energy and productivity to our nation -- and their labor built America. Only the desperate and hungry take on so dangerous a crossing, but such a passage does not turn them into "invaders." The allure of jobs and the laws of supply and demand have always been a key part of the equation. And, so they came and America prospered. To brand these workers as "invaders" is a disservice to the truth.
Myth 16: Immigrants are a Drain on the United States Economy
Reality: The immigrant community is not a drain on the U.S. economy but, in fact, proves to be a net benefit. Research reported by both the CATO Institute and the President's Council of Economic Advisors reveals that the average immigrant pays a net 80,000 dollars more in taxes than he or she collects in government services. For immigrants with college degrees the net fiscal return is $198,000. Furthermore, The American Farm Bureau asserts that without guest workers the U.S. economy would lose as much as $9 billion a year in agricultural production and 20 percent of current production would go overseas.
Source: CATO Institute, CATO Handbook for Congress: Policy Recommendations for the 108th Congress; Executive Office of the President: Council of Economic Advisors, "Immigration's Economic Impact," June 20, 2007; Derrick Z. Jackson, "Undocumented Workers Contribute Plenty,"
The Boston Globe, April 12, 2006
Update, September 2008:
The University of Arizona has released the conclusions of a study regarding the economic impact that immigrants have on the Arizona economy. Through 78 pages of research and applied statistical methodolgy, the study debunks the myth that the undocumented are a net drag on the state's economy and a heavy burden on its taxpayers. A copy of the study can be downloaded by clicking here
Myth 17: Immigrants Need to Get in Line to Obtain Jobs Legally in the United States.
Reality: Getting in line is not as simple as it sounds. In testimony before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security on February 5, 2004, Vernon M. Briggs, Jr. Board member, Center for Immigration Studies, and Professor at Cornell University, stated that the heart of the problem is that guest-worker programs for low-skilled workers seek to reconcile two sharply conflicting goals: the need to protect citizen workers from the competition of foreign workers who are willing to work for wages and in conditions that few citizens would tolerate versus the wishes of some employers who rely on labor intensive production and service techniques to secure a plentiful supply of low cost workers.
He cited lessons from the past and concerns for the future, given that these programs have unforeseen side effects that harm the wider society. That said, however, there are millions of low-skilled agriculture and other occupations that need workers. In the meantime, the law of supply and demand is having its consequences. Illegal immigration and food prices are on the rise. Still, for the historical reasons that Dr. Briggs cited in his full testimony, the government's policy is to allow limited access each year to these jobs.
It should be noted that a similar supply and demand condition exists for foreign skilled workers. These workers can work under a limited number of H-1B visas. American companies claim they need to hire at least 140,000 of these workers each year. In 2008, the Congress raised the number of H-1B visas for foreign skilled workers to 85,000. In all likelihood, businesses will continue to petition for more foreign skilled workers in order to stay competitive in a global economy. Business leaders say that these workers are in addition to native workers who can be readily hired but are not available in the labor market.
Myth 18: Mexican Illegal Immigrants Are Linked to Terrorism.
Reality: Transactional Records Action Clearinghouse (TRAC) was established in 1989 at Syracuse University as a "data gathering, data research and data distribution organization." TRAC studied millions of government records from fiscal years 2004-2006, records which revealed that of the 814,073 people charged by the Department of Homeland Security in immigration courts, 12 faced charges of terrorism.
In May 2007, six men were arrested and charged with plotting to massacre soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Some anti-immigration groups alleged that the men entered the U. S. illegally from the Mexican border to commit terrorism. Government records show that four were European, one was from Jordan and one was from Turkey. Two were legal residents and one was a U. S. citizen. The three that were alleged to have snuck in through the Mexican border actually arrived as children from Albania and at the time of their arrest had cases pending for legal status.
In an interview on Fox News Radio in June 2007, Secretary of The Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, said that there had not been a verifiable case of terrorists coming in through Mexico. The 19 who entered the U. S. to commit the acts of 9/11 came in through the Canadian border.
Myth 19: "We're Not Going to Let Our Culture Change!"
Reality: Culture is like an amorphous cloud - it is constantly changing and virtually impossible to contain. American commerce is able to export American cultural influences around the world via movies, music and products, and some countries try in vain to resist these influences.
Without success, for example, France has tried to check the advance of English. Even without these influences, the Paris of today is different than the Paris of 1950. The same is true for New York, Dublin, or London or any other vibrant city. Some American parents perhaps find it hard to explain how, under their very own environment, a fresh culture (the "new generation") sprang forth.
As we know, myriad factors have influenced American culture. Independence, slavery, the industrial revolution, two world wars, the automobile, modern communications, buying on credit, terrorism (just to name a few) have changed us materially. Immigration, too, has greatly impacted our culture with energy, the building of railroads and cities, new cuisines, churches, and contributions. At the same time, America's culture changed them and they conformed.
What is so different about the new immigrants? Can they not assimilate? Do they lack similar courage or the ability to take risks? Do they love their families less? Do they lack desire to take on the most arduous jobs?
Or is it a question of color?
Four hundred years ago, Native Americans were the sole inhabitants of what is now the United States. Clearly, racism, greed and force led to their demise and diminution. Perhaps worthy of note, many immigrant workers from the Americas have indigenous origins similar to that of Native Americans. Inadvertently, by migrating to the U. S., they help repair an ethnicity that intolerance virtually eliminated. By their presence, America looks more like the America of old. This view may be worthy of consideration for those so intent on "preserving culture."
Myth 20: Immigrants take farm jobs away from American citizens
Reality: In the heart of California, the nation's biggest farming state, the answer is a resounding no.
Here is an excerpt from an Associated Press article, dated September 28, 2010, written by Garance Burke:
Benjamin Reynosa, 49, says he often is the only legal U.S. resident on seasonal farm crews in California. 'I've been working in agriculture for 22 years, and I can tell you there are very few gringos out here,' he said. Government data analyzed by The Associated Press show most Americans simply don't apply to harvest fruits and vegetables. And the few Americans who do usually don't stay in the fields.
"It's just not something that most Americans are going to pack up their bags and move here to do," said farmer Steve Fortin, who pays $10.25 an hour to foreign workers to trim strawberry plants at his nursery near the Nevada border.
The AP analysis showed that, from January to June, California farmers posted ads for 1,160 farmworker positions open to U.S. citizens and legal residents. But only 233 people in those categories applied after learning of the jobs through unemployment offices in California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona.
One grower brought on 36. No one else hired any.
"It surprises me, too, but we do put the information out there for the public," said Lucy Ruelas, who manages the California Employment Development Department's agricultural services unit. "If an applicant sees the reality of the job, they might change their mind."
Sometimes, U.S. workers turn down the jobs because they don't want their unemployment insurance claims to be affected, or because farm labor positions do not begin for several months and applicants prefer to be hired immediately, Ruelas said.
The majority of farmers rely on illegal labor to harvest their crops, but they can also use the little-known H-2A visa to hire guest workers, as long as they request the workers months in advance of the harvest season and can show that no Americans want the jobs.
Of the estimated 40,900 full-time farmers and ranchers in California, just 23, including Fortin, petitioned this year to bring in foreign farmworkers on the visas, according to the available government data. The Labor Department did not respond to a request for comment about the findings.
More than half of farmworkers in the U.S. are illegal immigrants, the Labor Department says. Proponents of tougher immigration laws -- as well as the United Farm Workers of America -- say that farmers are used to a cheap, largely undocumented workforce, and that if growers raised wages and improved working conditions, the jobs would attract Americans.
So far, an effort by the UFW to get Americans to take farm jobs has been more effective than the official channels in attracting applicants.
The UFW in June launched the "Take Our Jobs Campaign," inviting people to go online and apply. About 8,600 people filled out an application form, but only seven have been placed in farm jobs, UFW president Arturo Rodriguez said.
Some Americans referred for jobs at Fortin's nursery couldn't do the grueling work.
"A few years ago when domestic workers were referred here, we saw absentee problems, and we had people asking for time off after they had just started," he said. "Some were actually planting the plants upside down."