February 24, 2006

Top 5 myths of immigration reform

(Editor’s Note: These excerpts are from the Web page of Catholic Charities of the St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese. The original source of the information is the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Web site.)

Catholic Charities receives a lot of questions about immigrants. The biggest fear is that immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy. Collectively, immigrants to America earn $240 billion a year, pay $90 billion a year in taxes and receive only $5 billion in welfare.

The following are the top five universal myths of immigration reform:

Myth 1—Most immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy.

Fact—Immigrant households paid an estimated $133 billion in direct taxes to federal, state and local governments in 1997, according to a study by Cato Institute economist Steve Moore.

A report by the National Academy of Sciences found that immigrants benefit the U.S. economy overall and have little negative effect on income and job opportunities of most native-born Americans. They also may add as much as $10 billion to the economy each year.

Myth 2—Immigrants take jobs away.

Fact—A recent study by economists reported that immigration opens up many job opportunities for natives by: 1) expanding the demand for goods and services through their consumption; 2) contributing to output through the investment of savings they bring with them; 3) demonstrating high rates of entrepreneurship, which may lead to the creation of new jobs for U.S. workers; 4) filling vital niches in the low and high skilled ends of the labor market, thus creating subsidiary job opportunities for Americans; and, 5) contributing to the economies of scale in production and growth of markets.

Additionally, there is no such thing as a fixed number of jobs. In fact, the number of jobs in America has increased by 15 million between 1990 and 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor). Between 2000 and 2010, more than 33 million new job openings will be created in the United States that require only little or moderate training, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This represents only 58 percent of all new job openings.

Myth 3—America is being overrun by immigrants.

Fact—The number of immigrants living in the United States remains relatively small as a percentage of the total population. The percentage of foreign-born people here is about 11 percent. In 1910, the U.S. population which was foreign-born was 14.7 percent. Only three legal immigrants per 1,000 enter the United States each year, compared to 13 immigrants per 1,000 in 1913.

The 2000 Census found that 22 percent of U.S. counties lost population between 1990 and 2000. Rather than “overrunning” America, immigrants tend to help revitalize demographically declining areas of the country, most notably in urban centers.

Myth 4—Immigrants aren’t really interested in becoming part of American society.

Fact—A CNN/USA Today poll reported that more immigrants than U.S. natives believe that hard work and determination are the keys to success in America. A 2003 New York Times/CBS News poll of Hispanics found that they are far more optimistic about life in the United States and their children’s prospects than are non-Latinos.

Myth 5—Immigrants contribute little to American society.

Fact—Immigrants show positive characteristics. A Manhattan Institute report showed that immigrants are more likely than the native-born to have intact families and a college degree, and to be employed; also, they are no more likely to commit crimes.

Immigrants will help fill the labor shortfall by the retiring baby boomers. Retired Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has stated that, “Immigration, if we choose to expand it, could prove an even more potent antidote for slowing growth in the working-age population.”

Immigrants contribute to entrepreneurship. Inc. Magazine reported in 1995 that 12 percent of the “Inc. 500”—the fastest growing corporations in America—were companies started by immigrants. More than 60,000 immigrants serve on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces.

(For more information, visit the America Immigration Lawyers Association at www.aila.org. )


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