Despite many studies and detailed economic reports outlining the positive effects of immigration, a great deal of misinformation is being peddled by opponents of immigration reform.
The following myths and facts show that immigrants significantly benefit the U.S. economy by creating jobs, increasing wages, and complementing the skills of the U.S. native-born workforce.
MYTH: Every job filled by an immigrant is a job that could be filled by an unemployed American.
FACT: Immigrants typically do not compete for jobs with native-born workers, and they create jobs as entrepreneurs, consumers, and taxpayers. The Partnership for a New American Economy estimates that immigrant-owned businesses “generate more than $775 billion in revenue, $125 billion in payroll, and $100 billion in income, employing one out of every 10 workers along the way.”
MYTH: Immigrants drive down the wages of American workers.
FACT: Immigrants give a slight boost to the average wages of Americans by increasing productivity and stimulating investment. A 2010 report from the Economic Policy Institute estimates that from 1994 to 2007 immigration increased the wages of native-born workers by 0.4%.
MYTH: The sluggish U.S. economy doesn’t need more immigrant workers.
FACT: Immigrants will replenish the U.S. labor force as millions of baby boomers retire. As Americans retire, the growth in the labor force will slow, averaging only 0.7% between 2010 and 2020 (even with calculating current rates of immigration), according to a January 2012 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate of growth would be even lower over the coming decade if not for the influx of new immigrants into the labor market.
MYTH: At a time of high unemployment, the U.S. economy does not need temporary foreign workers.
FACT: Temporary workers from abroad fill specialized needs in specific sectors of the U.S. economy. According to a 2013 report by researchers from The Brookings Institution, “Evidence suggests that the H-1B program does help fill a shortage in labor supply for the occupations most frequently requested by employers. Most of these are for STEM occupations.”
MYTH: There is no shortfall of native-born Americans for open positions in the natural sciences, engineering, and computer science and thus no need for foreign-born high-tech workers.
FACT: Job openings are expanding at educational levels where demographic data show too few native-born students, so we can expect these shortfalls to persist. The number of American students pursuing STEM fields is growing at less than 1% per year. By 2018, there will be more than 230,000 unfilled advanced degree STEM jobs even if every new American STEM graduate finds a job, says the McKinsey Global Institute.
MYTH: Undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes.
FACT: According to the Social Security Administration, undocumented immigrants paid $13 billion in payroll taxes into the Social Security Trust Fund in 2010 alone. The Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that households headed by undocumented immigrants paid $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010.
MYTH: Immigrants come to the United States for welfare benefits.
FACT: Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for federal public benefits such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid, Medicare, and food stamps, according to the National Immigration Law Center. Even most legal immigrants cannot receive these benefits until they have been in the United States for five years or longer, regardless of how much they have worked or paid in taxes.
MYTH: Immigrants are not assimilating into U.S. society.
FACT: Immigrants are buying homes, becoming U.S. citizens, and learning English. Between 1990 and 2008, the share of immigrants who owned homes jumped from 16% to 62%, and the share who were U.S. citizens grew from 7% to 56%, according to the Center for American Progress.
MYTH: Immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans.
FACT: Immigration does not cause crime rates to rise, and immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than native-born Americans. In 2006, the 10 states with the most pronounced recent increases in immigration had the lowest rates of crime in general and violent crime in particular, says the American Majority Foundation.
MYTH: Reforming the legal immigration system will not help secure the border.
FACT: Immigration reform that includes a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants already living in the country, the creation of flexible avenues for future immigration (through temporary worker programs), and mandatory employment verification would enhance border security and reduce illegal immigration, according to the Immigration Policy Center, American Immigration Council.