The immigration debate in the United States is often a divisive issue. As a result, there are many common myths about immigration that circulate and reinforce each other. This can be a very confusing topic, and it is important to understand the truths behind these popular misconceptions.
Myth #1: Immigrants bring crime to America
In recent years, several prominent public figures have claimed that immigrants are “killers” or “rapists” and have incited fear of them in the U.S. This is an unfortunate misconception that needs to be dispelled, as immigrants are actually less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens.
Myth #2: The children of immigrants come from poverty and stay poor
This myth has a long history in American society, dating back to the days of slavery and colonialism. However, today’s scholars have found that this is not the case. In fact, the children of immigrants typically climb the economic ladder far faster than their parents.
Myth #3: Immigrants steal jobs from Americans
This belief stems from a nostalgic view of the past. For decades, the United States had an open immigration system, which allowed anyone who was able-bodied to enter the country without any documentation. These days, there are strict rules on who may enter and remain in the country legally. This includes applying for and obtaining legal status as an immigrant through the process of obtaining visas and permanent resident/green card status.
Myth #4: Immigrants come to the United States illegally
While this is true, it is important to note that not all undocumented immigrants are actually trying to break into the country illegally. Instead, most come to the country on visitor, student, or work visas that were approved through a rigorous process. These visas are issued by the United States government and allow individuals to travel to the United States for up to three months and then return home.
Myth #5: All immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans
This is another common misconception that can be dispelled. While the United States has a large population of unauthorized immigrants, they account for only 5 percent of the overall civilian workforce. Moreover, these unauthorized immigrants only take up jobs in the service, farming, and construction industries, which are not very demanding.
Myth #6: Terrorists are infiltrating the U.S. by coming across the Mexican border
This myth is a result of fear-mongering propaganda that has been pushed heavily by politicians and far-right nationalists like Marine Le Pen in France. This type of propaganda is especially effective because it can be a very emotional issue, and people who are scared and insecure will often feel the need to blame others for their problems.
Myth #7: All undocumented immigrants sneak across the Mexican border
This is not true, and many undocumented immigrants do overstay their visitor, student, or work visas. The number of unauthorized immigrants was at its lowest point in 2016 since 2004 when there were 10.7 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States. This represents a significant decline from the 12.2 million unauthorized immigrants in 2007.