Debunking immigration myths is important for immigrants and natural-born citizens alike. Certain immigration myths continue to perpetuate among many people in Illinois, and throughout the U.S. However, it’s essential to understand where these myths are wrong and the reality behind them.
Here, you’ll learn more about some myths out there and their respective truths.
What Are Some of the Most Common Myths Associated With Immigration?
The following are some of the most frequently spread myths about immigration in the U.S. These myths have led to a harmful perception of immigrants that simply isn’t the reality of the immigrant experience.
Immigrants Take Away Jobs from U.S. Citizens
One of the most common myths around immigration is that immigrants take jobs from American citizens, leaving the native population with a high unemployment rate.
However, the reality is immigrants typically aren’t competing with the rest of the U.S. workforce. Employers often seek immigrant workers with skill sets that they can’t find in the American-born workforce, and studies have shown that immigrants actually create more jobs than they take.
Meanwhile, low-skill immigrants and low-skill native workers typically work in vastly different areas. Many of the jobs that low-skill native employees take require English-speaking skills and work authorization. These requirements can be challenging for immigrants to meet.
Undocumented Immigrants Strain Public Services
Contrary to popular belief, undocumented immigrants don’t actually qualify for many public services in the U.S. In fact, undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally can’t obtain benefits like food stamps or welfare, leaving them without assistance in many respects.
While undocumented immigrants still qualify for emergency care services and education, they won’t be able to apply for public assistance through most government programs. Such programs require legal immigrants to have lived in the country for at least five years along with immigration documents, qualifiers that undocumented immigrants don’t have. Even documented immigrants don’t rely on public services as much as people born in the U.S.
Immigrants Increase Crime Rates
Another reality to consider is that immigrants don’t contribute as much as native-born individuals to the country’s crime rate, especially when it comes to serious crimes.
Immigrants generally don’t commit as many property or violent crimes, and studies have found that the rate of violent crime in the nation has decreased as the number of immigrants increases.
Also, recent research from Stanford University has found that immigrants are generally less likely to be incarcerated than U.S.-born citizens.
Immigrants Don’t Succeed Economically
Some people also believe that immigrants don’t excel financially in this country as they did in the past. However, this is a misconception. Immigrants actually succeed just as well as they used to in the early days of immigration.
Immigrants work to grow economically after moving to the U.S. and tend to integrate just as much as they used to nearly a century ago. Many immigrants attempt to move into neighborhoods with large native-born populations, learn English, and otherwise try to successfully integrate into American culture as much as possible.
There Is an Impending “Immigration Crisis”
Outcries warning of a pending immigration crisis are yet another of the most common immigration myths. Many immigration critics claiming that too many immigrants are entering the U.S. at one time.
The truth contradicting this myth is that immigrants make up about the same percentage of American citizens as they had a century ago.
Immigrant Children Struggle to Climb Out of Poverty
Children of immigrants in the U.S. are just as likely to succeed economically as any immigrant. Even when born in poverty, these children tend to be able to rise to the middle class or higher statuses, overcoming their difficult upbringings.
Also, this trend occurs across immigrants from a wide range of countries, not just those from wealthier nations. For example, many successful children of immigrants come from families emigrating from countries like Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, and many African nations.
Immigrants Don’t Want to Become U.S. Citizens
Immigrants who come to the country often want to gain citizenship or, at the very least, lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, which would make life easier for them in the U.S. For instance, many immigrants would like to become citizens to open up more job opportunities and bring family members to the U.S.
While this desire is strong for many immigrants, it can be difficult and time-consuming to navigate the citizenship process. Many undocumented immigrants who want to come to the country legally can’t do so quickly because of the many steps involved in legalization, and the U.S. government also often experiences a backlog that leads to long wait times for processing.
Documented and Undocumented Immigrants Are Separate From Each Other
Documented and undocumented immigrants aren’t necessarily separated from one another. Many immigrant families consist of both types of immigrants, such as those comprising native-born children with undocumented parents.
Also, many families enter the country with young children, who have the ability to speak English and integrate into American culture. Often times, however, their immigration status prevents them from accessing the same opportunities as U.S.-born children of immigrants.
Do Immigrants Pay Taxes in Illinois?
Immigrant households pay millions of dollars every year in taxes, including state and federal taxes. Even undocumented immigrants pay taxes in the form of income, sales, and property taxes. In addition, they contribute to the Social Security Administration in many cases, despite the fact that they are unable to receive these benefits without proper documentation and lawful residence in the U.S.
Immigration Screening Process
To help you determine how to enter the country legally as an immigrant, consider undergoing the immigration screening process with the help of an experienced immigration legal services attorney.
With the help of a screening, you can better figure out what chances you have to enter the country legally and potentially become a U.S. citizen.
The following are a few key steps involved in the screening process:
The attorney will want to know about your biographical background to help gauge what opportunities you have. In the process, the attorney may ask about your:
- Previous contact with immigration
- Relationships with any family members who are U.S. citizens
- Time spent living and working in the U.S.
- Sexual orientation
- Educational history
Extensive Background Checks
In addition, you may be subject to a deep background check to determine what kind of criminal history you have. You may not be able to gain citizenship if you have a history of violent or otherwise bad faith crimes on your record.
For instance, you could be unable to legally immigrate to the U.S. if you have convictions for armed robbery, domestic violence, drug trafficking, or sex offenses.
Legal Pathways for Immigrants to Become Citizens
During your screening, you could find the right path to becoming a U.S. citizen with the right approach based on your situation.
Some pathways for immigration include:
A Green Card Via Marriage
One potential method for gaining citizenship in the U.S. entails obtaining a green card by marrying an LPR or American citizen. However, you must show proof that the marriage is valid and that your relationship is genuine.
The DACA Program
Children of immigrants traveling on DACA could also gain citizenship through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA doesn’t directly provide a path to citizenship, but these children of immigrants could avoid deportation and obtain valid work permits.
If someone believes that he or she faces persecution while staying in his or her country of origin, it may be possible to enter the country legally as a refugee with asylum status. You must meet certain criteria to qualify for this status, including being present in the US and likely facing discrimination if you return to your home country. However, if asylum is denied in the US, you may be able to appeal the decision or enter the country using another method.
You may also be able to enter the country legally if you are the victim of a crime under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act. The U visa gives individuals protection from law enforcement while encouraging them to cooperate with prosecutors and police.
Continuing to Debunk Immigration Myths
There remain many immigration myths that continue to spread in Illinois and throughout the U.S. Such misconceptions can make many immigrants concerned about discrimination and limited opportunities in the U.S. Many of these myths are untrue, and it’s often possible for undocumented immigrants and those with other statuses to become U.S. citizens when they take the right path. Ultimately, immigrants have many opportunities to flourish in the U.S. with legal assistance and proper documentation.