Immigration Myths and Realities

People often come to us looking for advice on how to respond to false information they hear about immigrants. Over the next few weeks, we will be sending out regular emails to debunk many of these dangerous immigration myths and we will update these myths below:

Immigration Myth 1: Immigrants Don't Pay Taxes

FACTS:

  • Undocumented immigrants are taxpayers - they pay sales and property taxes and many pay income taxes. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) released a study showing that undocumented immigrants across the US paid an estimated $11.84 billion in state and local taxes in 2012.
  • The Social Security Administration estimates that undocumented immigrants contribute about $12 billion each year to the cash flow of the program without receiving benefits in return because of their status.
  • In New York, undocumented immigrants contribute over $1 billion in state and local taxes annually.

Immigration Myth 2: Immigrants aren't learning English

FACTS:

  • Immigrants in the United States today are actually learning English slightly faster than their predecessors. Sixty-six percent of immigrants who speak a foreign language at home can also speak English "very well" or "well," according to a new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
  • In many parts of the country, the demand for English as a Second Language classes is far greater than the services available.
  • The most significant determinant of whether or not immigrants learn a new language is their age at the time of entry. Immigrants who arrive as young children learn a second language quickly while adults find it much more challenging.
  • 89% of native born Hispanics in the U.S. speak English well.

Immigration Myth 3: Immigrants take jobs from native-born residents

FACTS:

  • Immigrants do not generally compete with U.S. born workers. Instead, immigrants usually compete with the migrants who came before them.
  • Many immigrants with legal authorization to work here are highly skilled and sought after by U.S. companies because of shortages in the native-born skill base. Economists find that highly skilled immigrants have a significant positive impact on creating new jobs in the United States.
  • Undocumented immigrants often fill the lowest rung of employment in construction, agriculture and domestic services. Studies show that low-skilled immigrant workers and low-skilled native-born workers take on very different jobs, with native-born workers taking jobs that require work authorization and English language skills.
  • The largest reason that native-born employment has stagnated or declined is due to significant restructuring of the U.S. economy.

Immigration Myth 4: Undocumented immigrants are receiving extensive public benefits

Facts:

  • Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid or most other public benefits.
  • Most government assistance programs require proof of legal immigration status and even legal immigrants cannot receive many benefits until they have been in the United States for more than five years.
  • Undocumented immigrants can receive schooling and emergency medical care. A recent report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce states that "economists view expenditures on healthcare and education for children as investments that pay off later, when those children become workers and taxpayers."
  • Numerous studies have found that immigrants pay more in taxes than they receive in government services and benefits.

Previous Action Steps:

In record numbers, you have called, emailed and stopped by Neighbors Link to ask what you can do to support immigrants. Thank you for standing up in this critical time. Over the next few weeks, we will be sending out regular emails with action steps you can take. On this page, we will list each of those action steps as we send them out.

1. Participate in Events in Westchester to Support Immigrants and Refugees

We know many people attended the Mount Kisco March & Rally on May 7th and in the rallies in support of Diego Puma. Thank you! We will post upcoming events here soon.

2. Speak Out!

Many people ask us for talking points on how to articulate their support for immigrants in our community. Here are a few sentences that you can use when the time is right.

Immigrants are good for our country, our economy, and our democracy. Most of us are descended from immigrants, and we know from our own family histories that when immigrants are integrated into a community, everyone thrives. I am going to stand up for the immigrants who are my neighbors.

3. Additional Resources

Many people have asked us for the best way to stay updated on immigration issues, both at a national and local level. Two reliable groups to follow are:
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), particularly for local updates on immigration issues in New York. Neighbors Link is a member of NYIC.
The National Immigration Law Center, particularly for legal updates on immigration issues.

4. Report ICE actions, but don't spread rumors

The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) has released a statement on ICE Enforcement Operations in New York that we wanted to share:

To report raids/ICE actions contact United We Dream Migra Watch Hotline at 1-844-363-1423 and/or Immigrant Defense Project at 212-725-6422. Please do not spread second-hand, unverified rumors of ICE sightings or raids on social media or email. It can create additional panic and trauma throughout the community. Please do your best to confirm the rumor with a direct eye-witness and then report to the groups mentioned above. If you yourself are a witness to an ICE action please document as many details as possible including who, what, where, when and how. Badge numbers, names, photos and video can be especially helpful.