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Myths about Immigration and the Truth Behind Them

Updated: Sep 8, 2019

by COOPER TINSLEY - April 11, 2019

In 1950 the U.S accepted about 10 million immigrants; in 2016 the U.S received approximately 44 million immigrants. It's not the increasing number of immigrants I'm concerned about. It’s the changing attitudes of Americans towards immigrants that concerns me most. Hi, my name is Cooper Tinsley, and today I will be examining myths about immigration that many Americans believe to be true, but first, let me tell you why I'm here today.

This is my great-grandfather, Sydney Solly Simbolist in 1937. In this photo, he is still living in London. He was the only son of nine children.

In 1951, my great-grandparents moved from London, England to Boston, Massachusetts with their son, my grandfather. They moved in favor of the American dream.

This is my great-grandmother, Rachel Simbolist. This photo was taken in London in 1938. She was one of four children.

In this photo, my great-grandparents are joined by my grandfather, Michael Simbolist, in April of 1951, just before moving to America.

Here, my great-grandparents are celebrating a relative’s wedding reception.

Finally, this is Sydney, Rachel, and Michael celebrating Sydney’s return from Africa. He was on leave from the 8th English Army.

Without this history and histories just like this, we would not be having this discussion.

Fast forward to the twenty-first century. One of the most significant beliefs within the immigration debate is that most immigrants are here illegally. What many people do not realize is that most immigrants have followed all the rules to enter the country except one. Out of 31 million foreign-born residents living in the U.S, about 20 million are recognized as citizens. About 45 percent of the people that are said to be ‘undocumented’ entered the country legally, then decided to stay, such as a tourist that never left or a guest worker that let their visa expire.

Many also argue that the U.S is being overrun by immigrants more than ever before. Actually, the highest record of immigrants came in 1900 at about 20 percent of the population, whereas today immigrants account for just 12 percent of the population. This major fluctuation was caused by the recession in 2008. Many economists are expecting another recession, so this number could soon plummet again.

Let me ask you a question: How many of you aspire to become a member of the agricultural or service industry? Many argue that immigrants are taking good jobs away from Americans. This, in fact, is not true. Undocumented immigrants will take lower paying jobs that most Americans would not necessarily want. From 2000-2005, the number of American-born workers dropped by 1.8 million people. To fill the gap, employers needed to hire immigrant workers. Sadly, many take advantage of immigrants in the sense that they pay them less, ignore labor laws or do not provide benefits. These people cannot say anything because they are undocumented and try to stay away from government officials, in fear of deportation or capture by I.C.E. Besides, Americans actually benefit from the low price of food, lawn care and other goods and services produced by immigrants.

Next up, the idea that undocumented immigrants bring crime rates way up. But do they? Critics of immigration rely heavily on statistics, so here's a stat: since 1994, the national violent crime rate has declined by 34 percent and the property crime rate, such as houses being robbed, motor vehicle theft and arson, has declined 26 percent, even as the number of undocumented immigrants doubled; and according to America’s Majority Foundation, crime rates fell 14 percent from 1999-2006, just as some of the highest immigration rates made way.

Probably the most controversial immigration myth is that undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes but still get benefits. When discussing this topic, whether it's in your head or with someone else, ask this question: What are the different ways one pays a tax in the U.S? There's income tax, property tax, excise tax, and sales tax. These undocumented immigrants pay a sales tax every time they buy groceries or toys for their kids. They pay a property tax when they buy housing and an excise tax every time they pay a phone or cable bill. So it's actually quite the opposite. According to the Social Security Administration, about half of undocumented immigrants pay federal, state and local taxes. Among those taxes, they pay a social security tax for benefits they will never earn such as welfare.

Finally, many Americans are concerned about immigrants not wanting to become “Americanized” or become a part of American society--assimilation. They don’t want to speak English, eat the same food or practice the same religion as the people in their new community. Why is that a problem? The first wave of immigrants struggled with English and eventually gave up. The second wave spoke English as well as their native language. The third wave, however, can't speak to their grandparents. Imagine walking into your home and not being able to understand “hello” or “goodbye” or “I love you” from a family member.

Today, many Americans feel that immigrants, such as my great-grandparents, should not be accepted into the U.S; if they were, they would most likely not be accepted into their new American culture because their neighbors believe the presented myths. What is American culture? American culture would not exist without immigrants. Without these people, culturally clustered places like Chinatown, Koreatown and Little Italy would not be part of the daily lives of many Americans. These immigrants make up the foundation of the United States of America because we are united. So the question remains, what is an American and why do we feel this way, knowing somewhere along the line our family most likely went through the same thing? That's for you to answer for yourself. With that thought in mind, look to the person next to you and wonder what their story could be. Do you know yours?

Facts and Statistics courtesy of:

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