Quick Hit: Top ten myths about immigration

After Anna’s awesome post about why immigration is a feminist issue, this piece needs no preface. The myths about immigrants and immigration are much of what fuels the heated debate on the topic. Check out this piece to break them down.

1. Immigrants don’t pay taxes.
Immigrants pay taxes, in the form of income, property, sales, and taxes at the federal and state level. As far as income tax payments go, sources vary in their accounts, but a range of studies find that immigrants pay between $90 and $140 billion a year in federal, state, and local taxes. Undocumented immigrants pay income taxes as well, as evidenced by the Social Security Administration’s “suspense file” (taxes that cannot be matched to workers’ names and social security numbers), which grew by $20 billion between 1990 and 1998.
(Source: http://www.immigrationforum.org/about/articles/tax_study.htm)
2. Immigrants come here to take welfare.
Immigrants come to work and reunite with family members. Immigrant labor force participation is consistently higher than native-born, and immigrant workers make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force (12.4%) than they do the U.S. population (11.5%). Moreover, the ratio between immigrant use of public benefits and the amount of taxes they pay is consistently favorable to the U.S. In one estimate, immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay about $90 billion a year in taxes, and use about $5 billion in public benefits. In another cut of the data, immigrant tax payments total $20 to $30 billion more than the amount of government services they use.
(Source: “Questioning Immigration Policy – Can We Afford to Open Our Arms?”, Friends Committee on National Legislation Document #G-606-DOM, January 25, 1996. http:www.fas.org/pub/gen/fcnl/immigra.html)

Read the rest here.

Join the Conversation

  • Comrade Kevin

    A Libertarian proposal is to raise sales taxes exceptionally high so that immigrants will be taxed at the same proportion as American citizens. I don’t agree with it, but it’s out there on the table.

  • drydock

    The debate really isn’t about immigration as much as it is about illegal immigration. So while the 10 point factsheet isn’t irrelevant, it doesn’t address the facts around illegal immigration. Some typical points that need to be addressed:
    Are jobs being taken from people (i.e young black men) on the bottom of the class hierarchy by illegal immigrants?
    Do illegal immigrants cause a downward pressure on wages?
    Are illegal immigrants causing a crime problem?
    Since many illegal immigrants work under the table are they using public services more than they pay in?

  • mlmccorm

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this article. I often feel that I encounter these myths on a daily basis (living in a state where immigration is a hot and controversial topic, and working in the health care field) and now I have the tools to articulate what I’ve always known and believed.

  • Marc

    Particularly important in the discussions of immigration from a feminist perspectives are the lives of women who are immigrants, illegal or not, and the challenges they face in the workforce, especially for those who work cheap labors, are our hotel maids, clerks and nannies.
    A good book that I’d suggest for everyone’s feminist bookshelf is called “Disposable Domestics,” by Grace Chan, which focuses not only the policy aspect of it, but also the daily lives of and the social constructions of what it means to be immigrant women.

  • Suzann

    Are some employers deliberately hiring Latino immigrants in preference to African-American natives?
    Well – yes. On occasion, at least. When I was first starting out I worked ( briefly – as in I quit!) for one man who very vocally refused to hire native born (read African-American) young men as packers. He thought they were “pushy” and “always running to the labor board” if you didn’t pay them overtime.
    [[Anyone want to guess WHY I quit?? Yeh - I thought it was sorta obvious.]]
    I don’t know if this guy was a bigger pig than most, or just had a bigger mouth than most.
    I don’t think that hiring policy is as common any more. 1 – Legal INS inforcment has made it harder to run a completely ‘under the table’ business, and there are some new laws that make harder to play the “independent contractor” sweatshop game. 2 – As more women have moved into ownership in the fashion industry – they are either more progressive or more skilled at keeping their mouths shut. 3 – I don’t work around that part of the business any more.
    That said? There are certainly lots of abusive work situations out there, and lots of people willing to take advantage of undocumented workers.
    Which, in a way, can answer your question about the crime problem. I doubt that immigrants ( documented or not) are inclined to commit more crimes than average. OTOH, one might still count it as an increase in crime as they are very often made the victim of other peoples illegal acts. (Such as – when workers are paid under the table not only to the employers ignore minimum wage laws but it is not uncommon for the shop to close suddenly – move – and stiff them out of their last week or two of pay.)
    I would not blame them, I would blame the city & state & even federal gov. that looks aside and fails to enforce labor laws, wage laws, housing codes, food sanitation codes, banking rules, and all the other rules that protect the citizen but are somehow dispensable when applied to an “illegal” immigrant population.
    But still – a crime is a crime, and if all those laws were to be enforced it would require more tax resources. So you could say there is an burden on the police and regulatory forces.
    Really, the issue is much more complex than anyone’s sound bite will find comfortable.

  • WIDave

    “I doubt that immigrants ( documented or not) are inclined to commit more crimes than average.”
    According to federal statistics, just over 25% of the people behind bars in the United States are illegal immigrants. This combines federal, state and local inmates. This only counts those serving time for crimes other than immigration status.
    Since illegal immigrants certainly do not come close to being 25% of the United States population, Suzann, I would have to say your crime assumption is invalid.
    That being said, I support legal immigration. I drove a family member to her naturalization ceremony and was very proud of her. However, she would not hesitate to tell you that she does not like to be grouped together with those that immigrate illegally.