Immigration Myths

Top 10 Immigration Myths Debunked


Immigrants use an unfair share of the welfare system.

Fact: Low-income non-citizen children and adults utilize public assistance at a lower rate than comparable low-income native-born citizen children and adults, and the average value of public benefits received per person is generally lower for non-citizens than for natives. What’s more, non-citizen immigrants have many restrictions put on their eligibility for public benefits such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), SNAP, cash assistance and SSI. Eligibility rules are the toughest for arriving immigrants. Undocumented immigrants have no eligibility except for emergency services. In fact, immigrants are more likely to participate in the workforce than native citizens.
Source: CATO Institute


Immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

Fact: Immigrant business owners contribute more than $775 billion dollars in revenue to our annual Gross Domestic Product and employ one out of every ten American workers at privately-owned companies across the country. Immigrants are more than twice as likely to start a business as native-born Americans. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by a first- or second-generation American. In 2011, immigrants started 28 percent of all new businesses while accounting for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Source: Partnership for a New American Economy


Immigrants don’t want to learn English and become citizens.

Fact: Within five years of arriving, more than 75% of immigrants speak English. At the same time demand for adult English classes far exceeds the supply. Each year well over 500,000 immigrants became naturalized citizens. For most, eligibility for naturalization requires five years with a flawless record as a lawful permanent resident. Applicants have to overcome obstacles like getting here, finding a job, overcoming language barriers, paying numerous immigration fees, dealing with a famously lethargic immigration bureaucracy and taking a written citizenship test. A naturalized citizen must be much more motivated to become an American than someone that is native born.
Source: Migration Policy and U.S. Department of Homeland Security


Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.

Fact: All immigrants pay a variety of taxes: income, property, sales and others. Even undocumented immigrants pay income taxes. Although no official number is available, the Social Security Administration’s “Earnings Suspense File” (federal income taxes that cannot be matched to workers’ names and social security numbers), accrues approximately $70 billion a year. Undocumented immigrants also collectively pay more than $10 billion annually in state and local taxes.
Source: Social Security Administration and Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy


Today’s immigrants are different than those of 100 years ago.

Fact: Today’s immigrants are actually integrating with American culture more rapidly than their predecessors a century ago. More than 75% of immigrants speak English within their first five years; that’s significantly better than immigrants near the turn of the century. In the early 1900s, immigrants made up approximately 15% of the U.S. population; foreign-born individuals have now shrunk to about 13% of the total U.S. population.
Source: Manhattan Institute, Migration Policy, and Migration Information Source


Immigration reform is another form of amnesty.

Fact: If immigration reform includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented aliens in the U.S., it will be a rigorous path. Under the Senate’s proposed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, undocumented immigrants would have to wait 10 years for a chance at permanent legal residency and three more for citizenship. They would have to pay at least $2,000 in fines, along with hundreds of dollars in fees and taxes. And they would be required to learn English, pass criminal-background checks and prove they have lived continuously in the United States and have been employed regularly during that time.
Source: U.S. Senate Bill S.744


Immigration results in higher crime rates.

Fact: This is dramatically untrue. Immigrants are incarcerated at a rate 1/5 that of native-born Americans. In fact, newly arrived immigrants are the least likely to commit crimes. Native-born Hispanic men were nearly 7 times more likely to be in prison than foreign-born Hispanic men in 2000, while the incarceration rate of native-born non-Hispanic white men was almost 3 times higher than that of foreign-born white men.
Source: National Bureau of Economic Research and Immigration Policy Center


Most immigrants crossed the border illegally.

Fact: An estimated 40.4 million immigrants are part of the U.S. population as of 2011, and nearly 75% are of legal status. Of the remaining 25% that are undocumented, about 40% are actually foreigners who entered the U.S. legitimately, such as a tourist or student visa, and never returned to their home country. This group is often referred to as overstayers.
Source: Pew Research Center


Immigrants send all their money back to their home countries.

Fact: Intuitively, immigrants are going to send money back home if they are forced to leave family behind. However, all immigrants spend some of their income here. In fact, undocumented immigrants alone contribute roughly $80 billion annually in different taxes. Hispanics collectively have buying power of $1.2 trillion.
Source: Nielsen and Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy


Immigrants burden the healthcare system and drive up rates.

Fact: A National Immigration Law Center study found that undocumented immigrants spend less than half what U.S. citizens spend for medical services. According to the American Journal of Public Health, 30 percent of immigrants use no health care at all during the year. Combined with immigrant’s high labor force participation rate and tax contributions, immigrants contribute far more than they ever use. What’s more, the U.S. healthcare system has benefited from an influx of talented medical employees from countries like the Philippines and India.
Source: National Immigration Law Center