Regardless of the reasons for immigrating, myths
still abound regarding immigrants once they arrive in the United
States. Now's the time to separate some of this fact from fiction.
Myth Number 1: Immigrants take jobs away from
Myth Number 2: America is being overrun by
Myth Number 3: Most immigrants are a drain on
the U.S. economy.
Myth Number 4: Immigrants aren't really
interested in becoming part of American society.
Myth Number 5: Immigrants contribute little to
Myth Number 1: Immigrants take
jobs away from Americans.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Studies
have shown that quite the opposite is true: Immigrants create jobs.
Specifically various recent studies have shown that:
- Immigrants are more likely to be self-employed
and start new businesses. Small businesses, 18 percent of which
are started by immigrants, account for up to 80 percent of the new
jobs available in the United States each year.
- Slightly more than 10 percent of the U.S.
industrial workforce, or roughly 2.2 million Americans, are
employed by foreign companies doing business in the United States.
Additionally, the top 105 multinational corporations doing
business here have U.S. affiliates that are so large they would
qualify for the Fortune 500 list solely on the basis of their
Myth Number 2: America is
being overrun by immigrants.
This, unfortunately, is another case where
perception is out of sync with reality. To be sure, the number of
immigrants living in the United States is larger than ever before,
but these numbers are relatively small as a percentage of the
population. More importantly, the percentage of immigrants in the
total population has decreased. So far, no single decade has topped
1901-1910 for immigration admissions. Further, even though the
United States has one of the world's most generous refugee
resettlement programs, less than 1.5 percent of the world's refugee
population finds its way to the United States.
Perhaps the misperception regarding numbers of
immigrants rests in the fact that in the 1980s, three-quarters of
all immigrants entering the United States settled in just six
states: California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, and
Illinois. Also, the vast majority of immigrants settle in urban
areas. In 1990, 93 percent of foreign-born Americans lived in
metropolitan areas, compared with 73 percent of native-born
Myth Number 3: Most immigrants
are a drain on the U.S. economy.
Once again, nothing could be further from the
- Immigrants collectively earn $240 billion a
year, pay $90 billion a year in taxes, and receive $5 billion in
- New immigrants must prove that they won't be a
burden before they are allowed to enter the United States.
Compared to the native-born population, immigrants are more likely
to be employed, save more of their earnings, and are more likely
to start new businesses.
- Immigrants have a slightly higher per capita
income than natives and a slightly lower household income. But,
their income levels rise over time: Among those entering before
1980, median household income in 1989 was $35,733 (vs. $30,176 for
natives) and per capita income was $19,423 (vs. $14,367 for
- Non-refugee immigrants of working age are less
prone to welfare than natives.
Myth Number 4: Immigrants
aren't really interested in becoming part of American society.
All evidence points to the contrary. Immigrants
are very interested in being part of our society. In fact, the
grandparents and parents of immigrant children have expressed some
concern that their youngsters are assimilating too quickly.
- Immigrants want to learn and speak English.
Reports from throughout the United States indicate that the demand
for classes in English as a second language far outstrips supply.
After 15 years in America, 75 percent of Spanish-speaking
immigrants speak English on a regular basis. The children of
immigrants, although bilingual, prefer English to their native
tongue at astounding rates.
- Immigrants and refugees intermarry outside
their group at a rate of 1 in 3. The rate is even higher, 1 out of
2, for their children.
Myth Number 5: Immigrants
contribute little to American society.
Baloney. Besides their significant economic
contributions, immigrants continually have helped shape and mold the
fabric of our society.
- Immigrants, for the most part, are firm
believers in family unity. They are more likely than natives to
live in families: 76 percent vs. 70 percent. They also tend to
have more children: 2.25 vs 1.93. Immigrants are more likely to be
married: 60 percent vs. 55 percent. Only 8 percent of immigrants
are divorced or separated compared to 11 percent of natives.
- Immigrants recognize the value of an education.
While many lack a high school education, they are just as likely
as natives to hold a college degree: 20 percent. That rate rose
during the 1980s: Among those admitted in 1987-1990, 29 percent
held a college degree. Immigrants are also twice as likely as
natives to hold Ph.D.'s.
- Immigrants respect the law as much, if not
more, than native born Americans. They are less likely than
natives to be confined to a state prison. Among the five states
with the most immigrants--California, Florida, Illinois, New York,
Texas--only New York has a greater share of immigrants in its
prisons than in its general population.
So, who are these people we call immigrants? They
could be your parents, your grandparents, your teachers, your
friends, your doctors, your policemen, your grocer, your waiter,
your cook, your babysitter, your gardener, your lawyer, your
favorite actor, actress, or sports hero, your mayor, your
congressman or senator, your shopkeeper. Immigrants permeate the
fabric of America. They are an integral and important part of our
society, its goals and its values. They are the backbone that helps
make this country great. They are what sets us apart from every
nation in this world. In short, they are us.