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, American Immigration Council, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, American Immigration Council, American Immigration Council
Immigration Myth 2: Immigrants aren't learning English
Sources: Pew Research Center, 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, Cato Institute
Immigration Myth 4: Undocumented immigrants are receiving extensive public benefits
Sources: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Immigration Council, National Immigration Forum, Cato Institute
Immigration Myth 5: Immigrants are bringing a crime wave to the United States
Sources: American Immigration Council, Cato Institute, 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.
FACTS (Note: The below was written before the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, there are more significantly more restrictions on U.S. Visas and Entry)
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