Myth #1: Immigrants are responsible for the unemployment crisis.
Fact: Unemployment is caused by the capitalist system. The current economic crisis took place largely because of overproduction in the housing market, as well as reckless Wall Street speculation. The capitalists have laid off workers—immigrant and non-immigrant—in order to maximize their rate of profit while the economy contracted.
Even when the economy is booming and competition for jobs decreases, the capitalists aim to add to the pool of unemployed workers to keep wages down.
Studies have shown that there is no correlation between immigration and unemployment, and further that immigrants actually create jobs by participating in the economy. In fact, at the height of the unemployment crisis in 2009, counties with higher levels of immigration tended to have lower unemployment rates.
Myth #2: Immigrants don’t pay taxes and exhaust social services.
Fact: Immigrants pay more than their fair share of taxes. Even undocumented workers pay sales and property taxes in addition to payroll taxes, even though they do not have access to social security and other benefit programs. Most immigrants, documented or not, pay $80,000 more in
taxes than the cost of all social services they receive in their lifetime. A 2007 Congressional Budget Office report estimated that undocumented immigrants consume less than 5 percent of government services. Social services are overburdened because capitalist politicians have slashed the budgets of programs that working people depend on.
The real tax evaders are the bankers and CEOs. Many of the biggest corporations pay no taxes at all, helping to create the so-called budget deficits. Defenders of this unjust system scapegoat immigrants to distract from the assault of the ruling class on all working people.
Myth #3: U.S. labor would be stronger without immigrants.
Fact: Immigrant workers historically have been some of the most militant fighters and organizers in the U.S. labor movement. Immigrants are just as willing to organize and fight as U.S.-born workers, despite their fear of deportation, employer retaliation and other difficulties that come with living in a new country. After 10 to 20 years in the United States, Latino immigrants are in fact more than 10 percent more likely to be union members than U.S.-born workers.
Immigrants have shown their willingness to fight for workplace justice in many recent struggles, including in hotel worker unionization drives in California and efforts to organize janitors in Texas. The mass immigrant rights movement of 2006 showed the vast potential to organize and mobilize undocumented workers.
If undocumented workers are willing to take such bold action when they are most vulnerable, imagine their potential strength once they receive legal status. The labor movement can both grow its membership and fight more effectively through the full legalization of immigrant workers.
Myth #4: Today’s immigrants are ‘different’ from earlier generations.
Fact: In the face of bigotry, economic hardship, family separation and cultural dislocation, immigrants throughout history have attempted to preserve their identities and communities. The claim that certain immigrant communities threaten “American culture” has been used for centuries, especially against those from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the poorer areas of Europe. It is based fundamentally on a racist conception of the “real America” as white Anglo-Saxon.
The reality is that the United States has always been a multilingual and multicultural country, and has been built from the sweat and blood of people from many different nations. Working people must fight this racist notion of cultural uniformity to forcibly assimilate immigrant communities.
To claim, for example, that Latino immigrants “won’t learn English” is pure nonsense. Mexican immigrants and their descendants tend to learn and speak English at a faster rate than any other immigrant group, according to a 2007 American Political Science Association study. Today’s Latino immigrants experience much of the same generational progress in education and employment as did waves of European immigrants before them.
Myth #5: Immigrants are a criminal element in U.S. society.
Fact: Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than those born in the United States. The myth that greater immigration leads to increased crime defies logic and has been disproven. Why would people who face deportation for even the most trivial offenses risk engaging in criminal behavior, especially when they have gone through tremendous hardship to build new lives in the United States?
During the heightened period of immigration between 1994 and 2004, violent crime and property crime declined 35 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Between 1999 and 2006, the crime rate went down nearly twice as much in the 19 states with the largest immigrant population compared to the rest of the country. Only 0.7 percent of immigrants are in prison, compared to 3.5 percent for the general population.
The real criminals are the Wall Street banks and multinational corporations that have caused such tremendous economic hardship all across the world.