Book sets out to remove misinformation from debate
A study of U.S. employment patterns over generations shows no tie between unemployment and immigration rates, author Aviva Chomsky writes.
You’re a law-abiding American citizen, so you should have no trouble answering this simple question.
It’s from a civics lesson that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provides to help prepare people for the citizenship test:
Q. Whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?
a) All American citizens.
b) All people living legally in the United States.
c) All people living in the United States.
The correct answer is c – something likely to shock those who believe that illegal immigrants are not and should not be afforded the same constitutional rights as you and me.
But there is a lot about the immigration debate that we have wrong. Not wrong opinions, but wrong facts upon which our opinions are built.
It seems we’re never going to have agreement on much having to do with immigration. But if we start from the same baseline with accurate information, at least the debate would be better informed.
That’s the premise that led Aviva Chomsky, a professor of history at Salem (Mass.) State College, to write “They Take Our Jobs – and 20 other myths about immigration.”
The title of the book is the first myth Chomsky debunks. They aren’t taking our jobs.
“I don’t think there is any support for that factually,” Chomsky said in an interview. “People just repeat it because they hear it.”
First, Chomsky said, the economy is so globally integrated that there is no such thing as “our jobs.” Business owners seek to keep expenses as low as possible, so they move jobs, often to other countries. Illegal immigrants can’t be blamed for that.
And second, the economy is a very complex organism. There is no simple relationship between the number of people and the number of jobs. Because people consume things as well as produce things, population growth creates jobs and provides people to fill some of them.
A study of U.S. employment patterns over generations shows no tie between unemployment and immigration rates, Chomsky wrote.
She further said that the economic arguments against illegal immigrants – that they don’t pay taxes and are a drain on the economy – also are not supported by facts.
Some immigrants work under the table and don’t pay taxes. But the same is true of some citizens.
Immigrants who receive paychecks and have taxes withheld – and the Social Security Adminis-tration estimates that’s about 75 percent of them – pay the same taxes as everyone else. They also pay Social Security taxes but have no hope of ever getting any money back from the system.
Social Security receives about $7 billion per year in deposits to fake Social Security numbers, Chomsky wrote. That’s about equal to the annual deficit for the system.
So instead of being a drain on the economy, immigrants are keeping Social Security afloat.
And as to other government services – health care and the like – studies show that immigrants as a whole pay more in taxes than they cost in services.
Any book, regardless of how comprehensive and well-sourced, will not persuade the hard-core anti-immigrant crowd to rethink its position.
Chomsky said she wrote it not for them, but for “people who are confused and don’t have the arguments marshaled at their fingertips.”
Chomsky also noted that the immigration debate and anger we now are experiencing is nothing new in American history.
The same thing happened when African slaves arrived, and again when immigrants from Ireland and other European countries arrived, and later when Chinese laborers came to the United States.
Existing residents were so upset at the Chinese that all visitors and immigrants from Asian countries were banned from 1882 to 1943.
And many of us living here now are turning on the most recent immigrants – those largely from Mexico and other Latin American countries.
Which group will be next?
Mark Kimble appears at 6:30 p.m. and midnight Fridays on the Roundtable segment of “Arizona Illustrated” on KUAT-TV (Channel 6). He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4662.
20 IMMIGRATION MYTHS
1. Immigrants take American jobs.
2. Immigrants compete with low-skilled workers and drive down wages.
3. Unions oppose immigration because it harms the working class.
4. Immigrants don’t pay taxes.
5. Immigrants are a drain on the economy.
6. Immigrants send most of what they earn out of the country.
7. The rules apply to everyone, so new immigrants need to follow them just as immigrants in the past did.
8. The country is being overrun by illegal immigrants.
9. The United States has a generous refugee policy.
10. The United States is a melting pot that has always welcomed immigrants from all over the world.
11. Because we are descendants of immigrants, we start on equal footing.
12. Today’s immigrants threaten the national culture because they are not assimilating.
13. Today’s immigrants are not learning English, and bilingual education adds to the problem.
14. Immigrants come here only because they want to enjoy our higher standard of living.
15. The American public opposes immigration, and the debate in Congress reflects that.
16. The victory of Prop. 187 in California shows that the public opposes immigration.
17. Immigration is a problem.
18. Countries need to control who goes in and out.
19. We need to protect our borders to prevent criminals and terrorists from entering.
20. If people break our laws by immigrating illegally, they are criminals and should be deported.
Source: “They Take Our Jobs”