Debunking Immigration Myths

Someday soon, the fiscal cliff negotiations will be history, and Congress will turn its attention to the immigration issues they’ve managed to avoid for the past several years. As we’ve noted before, good public policy requires good information, a firm factual basis on which to build. Lest we build a new legislative edifice upon the shifting sands of public opinion, immigration scholar Fariborz Ghadar recommends we face facts about U.S. immigration patterns.

In an Op-Ed piece on, Ghadar identifies several misconceptions that he says have skewed our understanding of the immigration problems we face. [See Dispel the Immigration Myths, by Fariborz Ghadar,, 11.Dec.2012.]

  •  Myth 1: America continues to be a nation of immigrants. Though this is true, it is not true to the same extent it once was, Ghadar points out: “According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of immigrants is almost four times what it was 100 years ago. But if we look at this as a percentage of the total U.S. population, we see that it is about 13%, which is not an all-time high.”
  •  Myth 2: America is still the nation of choice for aspiring immigrants. Not true, says Ghadar, because “as a percentage of population, Canada and Australia both have significantly higher rates of foreign-born residents than the U.S., at approximately 20% and 26%, respectively,” while the U.S. rate – about 13% foreign-born – matches that of France and Germany.
  •  Myth 3: The U.S. beats the competition in attracting the best and brightest immigrants. “America no longer draws the smartest people from around the world,” Ghadar notes. Canada, New Zealand, and Australia all admit a higher proportion of well-educated, high-skill workers as immigrants, compared to the United States, he says.
  • Myth 4: Immigrants are a burden to our economy. In fact, says Ghadar, “Taxes paid by immigrants and their children – both legal and illegal – exceed the costs of the services they use.”

Having struggled along with an outdated immigration system for the past several years, we need to make the most of this historic opportunity and get comprehensive reforms that address the situation as it is, not as it’s refracted through the prisms of fear and ideology. This means facing facts, and Professor Ghadar’s piece on is a great place to start.

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