Immmigration Myths and Cable News

Here is an interesting article about immigration that looks at the myths promoted by mainstream media.  It is a study completed by Media Matters Action Network.  Great insight.  En Espanol

Here is the link of the summary .

Here is the downloadable PDF file.

Here is a very brief summary of the article, please use this link to read the full text:

1.) There is no evidence to indicate that undocumented immigrants are more likely to commit crimes than American citizens; indeed, the evidence strongly suggests that immigrants in general are less likely to commit crimes.2 For instance, a 2005 study 3 conducted by researchers from Harvard University and the University of Michigan revealed both that immigrants committed fewer crimes than native-born citizens, and that a greater proportion of immigrants in a neighborhood was associated with lower rates of crime. Another study 4 analyzing census data found that among men aged 18-39 (who make up the bulk of those committing crimes), the incarceration rate was five times higher for the native-born than for the foreign-born. This held true within ethnic and national-origin groups, meaning, for instance, that native-born Latinos were more likely to be incarcerated than foreign-born Latinos. A recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California found that in that state, which contains more immigrants than any other, the foreign-born are incarcerated at a rate half as high as their presence in the population, and only one-tenth as high among men age 18-40, who make up the bulk of prisoners.5 Robert J. Sampson, chairman of the sociology department at Harvard University, said that data show that undocumented immigrants are in fact “disproportionately less likely to be involved in many acts of deviance, crime, drunk driving, any number of things that sort of imperil our well-being.”6

There have, of course, been individual crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, some of which are quite serious. But in order to justify a particular focus in news programs and the claims of a “crime wave” — not just a few reports, but the enormous number of stories and discussions we document below — crimes committed by undocumented immigrants would have to be disproportionate to their numbers. Immigration opponents might argue that any crime committed by an immigrant increases the total amount of crime in the country, but the risk of crime is increased only if the immigrants commit more crimes per person than the native-born, since immigration also increases the population and therefore diffuses the crime risk to any particular person.

Immigration opponents often note that a relatively high proportion of federal prisoners are foreign-born (more than a quarter are noncitizens, according to the Government Accountability Office7). But this one statistic gives a misleading impression of overall crime. For one, federal prisoners account for only a small proportion — less than 10 percent — of the total incarcerated population, since most prisoners are housed in state and local facilities.8 According to the latest Justice Department statistics available, noncitizen prisoners accounted for only 5.9 percent of the combined federal and state prisoner population.9 The most recent Census Bureau report on the foreign-born population in the U.S. found that 11.7 percent of the population is foreign-born — meaning that the proportion of foreign-born prisoners is much lower than the proportion of foreign-born people in the population.10

2. Some believe that undocumented immigrants benefit from federal programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, SCHIP, and welfare. In fact, undocumented immigrants are ineligible to receive these benefits; anyone seeking to obtain them must provide proof of legal status.25 Since the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, even documented immigrants are ineligible for most forms of public assistance for the first five years they reside in the United States or until they attain citizenship.26 While there are some social services undocumented immigrants do use — public education for children, for instance — contrary to the rhetoric one hears on cable news, they also support government spending through the taxes they pay.

Undocumented immigrants pay all kinds of taxes: they pay sales taxes whenever they purchase goods and services, they pay property taxes in the form of rent, and they pay payroll and income taxes. Many undocumented immigrants use false Social Security numbers to obtain employment; when they do so, these workers then pay payroll taxes (for Social Security and Medicare), and often federal and state income taxes as well, through paycheck withholding. As the New York Times reported in 200527, the Social Security Administration estimates that three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay payroll taxes, adding as much as $7 billion in Social Security taxes a year to federal coffers, and another $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes.28 Under current law, none of these funds will ever be paid back to undocumented immigrants in the form of Social Security and Medicare benefits, as they are not eligible.

This does not mean, however, that in the short term some states and localities will not pay more for services to undocumented immigrants than they collect in taxes, even if when all levels of government are considered, immigrants more than pay for themselves. According to a December 2007 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, “Over the past two decades, most efforts to estimate the fiscal impact of immigration in the United States have concluded that, in aggregate and over the long term, tax revenues of all types generated by immigrants — both legal and unauthorized — exceed the cost of the services they use. Generally, such estimates include revenues and spending at the federal, state, and local levels. However, many estimates also show that the cost of providing public services to unauthorized immigrants at the state and local levels exceeds what that population pays in state and local taxes.”29

I’ve included this article as it appears worth consideration.  Our local House Representative for the 24th Congressional district, Elton Gallegly, has spent an enormous amount of time on this issue.  I personally feel voters need a broader perspective as to the important issues worthy of our efforts and consideration.

One Response

  1. This makes perfect sense. I believe that crimes are committed individually and separately based on many factors and are not limited to someone’s racial or geographical background.

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