People often come to us looking for advice on how to respond to false information they hear about immigrants. In this series, we debunk dangerous myths about immigration. If you would like to be added to our email list to receive these myths and realities, email Katie Graves-Abe.
Immigration Myth 1: Immigrants Don't Pay Taxes
Sources: The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Social Security Administration,
Immigration Myth 2: Immigrants aren't learning English
Sources: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Migration Policy Institute, Pew Research Center
Immigration Myth 3: Immigrants take jobs from native-born residents
Sources: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, Urban Institute
Immigration Myth 4: Undocumented immigrants are receiving extensive public benefits
Sources: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Immigration Council
Immigration Myth 5: Immigrants are bringing a crime wave to the United States
Sources: American Immigration Council, Cato Institute
Immigration Myth 6: Immigrants are stressing our public schools
Sources: American Immigration Council, Pew Research Center, The Century Foundation, Harvard Education Letter
Immigration Myth 7: Undocumented immigrants should have "waited in line" outside the U.S. in order to immigrate here or should have "fixed" their status after entering.
THE LAW CREATES NARROW CATEGORIES OF ELIGIBILITY Most people immigrate to the United States through one of three routes: family relationships, job offers, or humanitarian grounds. Both family and employment-based immigration are limited to specific situations and relationships. Humanitarian protection is only available to certain categories of people. All three routes are expensive, complicated and narrow. Most immigrants do not have the necessary family or employment relationships and often cannot get humanitarian protection. Therefore, even if immigrants have family and jobs in the U.S. or are fleeing persecution back home, these three routes may not be available to them.EVEN ELIGIBLE IMMIGRANTS FACE SIGNIFICANT OBSTACLES Immigrants eligible for one of the three routes often face significant obstacles. Under the law, no country can receive more than seven percent of the visas available each year. Therefore, people from countries such as Mexico, China, India and the Philippines, who often have U.S. citizen family members and are most interested in immigrating to the United States, usually have a very long wait. Often this can exceed twenty years depending on their family tie and country of origin.IMMIGRANTS ALREADY IN THE U.S. OFTEN HAVE NO LEGAL WAY TO CORRECT THEIR STATUS Once somebody has entered the United States without authorization or has overstayed their visa, the law typically prohibits them from getting legal status within the United States. To get status, an immigrant will usually have to leave the U.S. first and return to their country of origin. When this happens, they may be banned from returning to the United States for up to ten years. This is true even if they are married to a U.S. citizen and have U.S. citizen children. The limited exceptions to this rule only apply for select groups of people.THE RULES HAVE CHANGED DRAMATICALLY Immigration law has changed dramatically over the past 100 years. It has become extremely complex and confusing. Most of the people who immigrated to the United States more than 75 years ago would likely not be eligible under our current laws.
Sources: American Immigration Council, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Myths and Realities about Family-Based Immigration
Some people have asked us to explain what is meant by "chain migration," a term that has been in the news recently. "Chain migration" is being used to describe what has traditionally been known as "family reunification" or "family-based immigration." Since the Immigration and Nationality Act was enacted in 1965, legal immigration to the United States has been based mainly on family ties or work skills. The family-based immigration program enables citizens of the United States and green card holders to bring certain qualified family members to the United States. This is currently the most common legal form of immigration to the United States, but it has many restrictions.
There are limits on which family members are eligible (based on whether the person petitioning is a green card holder or citizen). There are also caps on the total number of immigrants who can come from each country, so even family members who are eligible for this program may have to wait 10 to 20 years or more to come to the United States. Finally, the family member in the United States must show an income level that is above the poverty line and has to commit to support the family member they are bringing to the United States.
Research has shown many benefits of a family-based immigration system:
American Immigration Council
The Niskanen Center