Would you leave everything behind for an unknown result in a new country, or would you stay in your native country that lacks opportunities and oppresses you? As Americans with a plethora of freedoms, rights, and opportunities, we do not think or consider about leaving the country for a better life. America provides privileges for all of its citizens regardless of race, age, gender and background. However, many people do not experience the beauty of positive resources in their native countries.
Undocumented immigrants come to the United States with high hopes and dreams to have a better life, and live in peace with others, yet they are portrayed in negative connotations by many civilians and politicians. The misconceptions and myths that surround the undocumented immigrant community are brought up due to hatred and xenophobia.
Three main misconceptions debunked:
- Undocumented immigrants are bringing crime to America.
According to U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the percentage of immigrants and undocumented immigrants in the U.S. has increased between the years of 1990 and 2010. However, the violent crime rate across the nation has decreased by 45% and property crime has decreased by 42%. This demonstrates- including many studies- how immigrants regardless of their immigration status, where they come from and what education level they may have, are less like to commit crimes or to be incarcerated than native-born Americans.
- Undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes, are taking jobs away from Americans, and are “draining the system.”
According to Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, undocumented immigrants have paid $10.6 billion in local and state taxes in 2010. This includes property, personal income, and sales taxes. Also, undocumented immigrants pay a higher local and state tax rate than the richest 1%. According to Social Security Administration, undocumented immigrants
pay about $15 billion a year into Social Security without being able to get any benefits. According to U.S. Chamber of Commerce, removing millions of undocumented workers from the economy would remove millions of entrepreneurs, taxpayers, and consumers. The native-born workers and immigrant workers have a different set of skills that complement each other. Undocumented immigrants do not qualify for food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, and other benefits.
- Why don’t they come here legally like my ancestors did?
The immigration process and the current immigration laws are convoluted and have few
options for legal immigration. The costs are increasing and so is the wait for a legal status in the United States. According to the State Department, the imaginary
“immigration line” is 4.4 million people long and the wait can range from a few years to decades depending on the Visa and native country. In countries that are poor or violent, the wait is unbearable and frustrating; so many immigrants risk their lives taking a dangerous and expensive journey to cross the border.
Many immigrants live in the shadows out of fear and their voices are not being heard. Having a constant fear of their unknown future is very unfortunate.Undocumented students, workers, and families want to assimilate to the American culture by studying at a higher education, by working hard, and by living peacefully and happily. Immigrants love living and experiencing the American life. They are the true definition of Americans. Stop the xenophobic attitudes; we are a nation of immigrants!
She is a four year old Salvadoran immigrant who is anxious to start school. The little bag that holds the American flag is from El Salvador, symbolizing that immigrants are the foundation of America.
As an advocate for immigration rights, Laura Lemus is the Special Projects Coordinator for Long Island Wins. She explains why do immigrants come to America, what are the positive contributions that Immigrants bring to America, and what we can do to help our fellow immigrants in our community. Thank you Laura for your contributions to the immigrant community!