The 2 Biggest Lies About Immigrants In the U.S.

July 29th 2015

As the election cycle begins to run its course, a number of questionable statistics and myths surrounding a variety of hot-button topics are certain to crop up. Immigration, as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has shown in recent weeks, continues to be one such topic. Many of Trump's claims are easily refutable as wild and offensive generalizations, with his most recent call Wednesday to deport America's more than 11 million undocumented workers, but no plan on how to do it, TIME reports. Trump, however, certainly will not be the last presidential candidate to speak lies and myths surrounding immigrants and immigration.  

Myth #1: Immigrants abuse government assistance programs.

A number of these myths revolve around money. Anti-immigrant rhetoric always blames immigrants for abusing government assistance programs without funding them. The truth is quite the opposite. A nationwide study conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy titled Undocumented Immigrants' State and Local Tax Contributions shows that more than 8 million of the 11.4 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. paid nearly $12 billion in state and local taxes in 2012.

Furthermore, not only do undocumented immigrants pay taxes, they also fund Social Security. A separate study by the Social Security Administration titled Effects Of Unauthorized Immigration On The Actuarial Status of the Social Security Trust Funds published in April 2013 states:

While unauthorized immigrants worked and contributed as much as $13 billion in payroll taxes to the OASDI program in 2010, only about $1 billion in benefit payments during 2010 are attributable to unauthorized work. Thus, we estimate that earnings by unauthorized immigrants result in a net positive effect on Social Security financial status generally, and that this effect contributed roughly $12 billion to the cash flow of the program for 2010.

Because these immigrants are also undocumented/unauthorized, they are unable to enroll in government assistance programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps). There are exceptions for undocumented immigrants with U.S.-born children who receive aid in their children's name. Overall though, undocumented immigrants hardly make up a majority of federal aid recipients as is often falsely claimed.

For example, data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that, in 2013, the majority of SNAP recipients were white (40.2 percent). African-Americans, who are typically racially stereotyped as recipients of government aid accounted for 25.7 percent of all recipients. Meanwhile, Hispanics/Latinos who are typically stereotyped as immigrants (undocumented or otherwise) accounted for only 10.3 percent of all recipients.

Myth #2: Latinos are largest immigrant population arriving in America.

Speaking of which, Hispanics/Latinos are hardly the largest immigrant group entering the U.S. today, despite what presidential candidates hanging out at the U.S./Mexico border love to tell their constituents. Research by Eric Jensen of the Census Bureau shows that non-Hispanic immigrants from Asia have made up the majority of immigrants entering the U.S. since 2009. In fact, more migrants arrived from China than from Mexico in 2013. In that same year, foreign-born Asian immigrants, many from China, Japan, Korea, and the Philippines, accounted for 40.2 percent of all immigrants entering the country.

Clearly, the truth behind immigration and immigrants is more complex and ever-changing than many would have one believe. Understanding these facts and shifts is key not only to challenging reactionary, anti-immigrant rhetoric but also to creating a real path reforming the immigration system.

Related: These Incredible Photos Prove What the American Dream Really Looks Like

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