Immigration Myths

Issues ››› Immigration Myths
  • Media Take Note: Heritage Study Is Not An Analysis Of Immigration Proposal


    Media outlets are reporting that a new immigration report from the conservative Heritage Foundation found that passing the proposed Senate comprehensive immigration bill will cost $6.3 trillion. In fact, the Heritage report is not an analysis of the entire Senate's "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act," and does not take into account costs or savings of the proposal's broader reforms.

  • Anti-Immigrant Fox Guest Falsely Ties Boston Bombings To Deferred Action Program


    Fox News guest Michael Cutler, a former agent with the now-defunct Immigration and Naturalization Services and also a fellow at the nativist organization the Center for Immigration Studies, used the Boston Marathon bombing investigation to attack the deferred action program for undocumented students. In reality, the program, which is intended to provide deportation relief to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, is unrelated to the circumstances of the suspects' immigration status

    During a discussion with Fox News host Megyn Kelly about recent arrests in the Boston Marathon bombings, Cutler used the fact that one of the suspects reportedly was here on a student visa to attack the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. After casting doubt on the process by which asylum is granted, Cutler brought up DACA and suggested the program had similar security lapses. He asked: "Do you really think anyone is scrutinizing anything?" He also claimed that the program approves 99.5 percent of applicants: 

    In fact, those who qualify for deferred action are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States before age 16. While the Boston bombings suspects' current immigration status is in dispute, they were reportedly in the United States under student visas and were legal non-immigrants.

    Currently, there is not a mandatory in-person screening process for DACA applicants. However, in-person interviews may be requested for applicants who are suspected of fraud and for quality assurance purposes. But the process to apply is so arduous that these applicants are heavily scrutinized. Other than the several pieces of identifying documentation needed to begin the process as well as the $465 in fees, each applicant must go through a biographic and biometric background test.

  • Fox Inadvertently Makes Case For Immigration Reform

    ››› ››› SAMANTHA WYATT

    Fox News has repeatedly invoked the Boston bombings to suggest that immigration reform could exacerbate existing problems within the immigration system. However, their commentary actually highlights shortcomings that the bipartisan Senate bill will address in full.

  • Another False Immigration Amnesty Claim: Tax Edition


    Fox News trumpeted the false claim that immigrants who receive provisional status under the immigration reform proposal would get a "tax amnesty" because the bill does not mandate they pay back taxes. In fact, the bill requires that immigrants -- at least three quarters of who already pay payroll taxes -- pay a tax liability before they can qualify for provisional legal status and ensure they pay taxes before they can renew their legal status.

    In a op-ed, Dan Stein, president of the anti-immigration Federation for American Immigration Reform, accused the bipartisan group of senators behind the bill of giving a "tax amnesty" to undocumented immigrants because the bill does not contain language addressing "back taxes" and does not explicitly explain how taxes will be assessed. He wrote that "taxes assessed" are different from "taxes owed" and there is no proof that the proposal would require immigrants to pay anything:

    While this sounds good at first blush, "taxes assessed" is not the same as "taxes owed."  A tax assessment occurs when the IRS officially records that a person owes money because an individual files a tax return, or the IRS audits an individual - whether or not he has filed a return - and records how much the person owes.

    The bill requires aliens to only pay taxes that the IRS has assessed at the time they apply for ["registered provisional immigrant"] RPI status.

    If the IRS had no knowledge that the individual had been working here, there would obviously be no tax liability assessed and the alien has nothing to satisfy for the purpose of getting RPI status.

    This claim has also received considerable attention from other nativist anti-immigrant groups.

    In fact, immigrants who apply for provisional legal status would have to pay taxes. The bill states that immigrants may not receive provisional status until any federal tax liability is satisfied in accordance with regulations to be established by the Secretary of the Treasury. This gives the IRS the discretion to decide how a tax liability will be administered to immigrants seeking the legal status. If an immigrant is granted legal status they would still be required to pay taxes during that period as well.  

  • Fox Nation Falsely Equates "Amnesty" With Pathway To Earned Citizenship

    Blog ››› ››› MIKE BURNS

    Fox Nation falsely equated "amnesty," a term shown to produce negative reactions, with a pathway to earned citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In fact, a pathway to earned citizenship would require immigrants illegally in the U.S. to meet a number of requirements before applying for citizenship.

    On April 24, Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a speech to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund in which he said, "creating a pathway to earned citizenship" for undocumented immigrants is "a matter of civil and human rights." Fox Nation highlighted the speech under the headline "Holder Calls Amnesty a 'Civil Right.' " In its post, however, Fox Nation reported that Holder said "creating a 'pathway to earned citizenship' was a 'civil right.' "

    Fox Nation equated "amnesty" with a pathway to earned citizenship, but the two are not the same. To get on a pathway to earned citizenship, undocumented immigrants would have to face a number of hurdles, including completing a registration process, paying fines and taxes, and studying English. 

    Indeed, the comprehensive immigration reform proposal introduced in the Senate on April 17 by a bipartisan group of senators includes numerous conditions undocumented immigrants must meet before they can apply for citizenship, along with waiting a minimum of 13 years. That legislation has been repeatedly attacked by conservative media as "amnesty," even though immigration experts dispute the claim. 

    Fox has a long history of labeling immigration policies "amnesty," a term that has been shown to produce a more negative reaction than describing a policy as "a path to citizenship."

  • Boston Bombings Inspire New Lies On Immigration Reform From Conservative Media

    ››› ››› SAMANTHA WYATT

    Conservative media figures are using the Boston Marathon bombings to pressure lawmakers to halt attempts at immigration reform, the details of which were released last week by eight bi-partisan members of the Senate known as the "Gang of Eight." By suggesting that immigration reform could facilitate future terrorist attacks, right-wing media are attempting to obstruct legislation that a majority of Americans support.

  • 5 Immigration Experts Who Denounce Right-Wing Radio's "Amnesty" Claim

    Blog ››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

    Immigration experts dispute right-wing radio claims that the comprehensive immigration reform proposal is "amnesty." Indeed, the legislation introduced in the Senate on April 17 by a bipartisan group of senators includes a number of provisions undocumented immigrants would have to meet before they could apply for citizenship -- along with waiting at a minimum 13 years.

    To attack the legislation, conservative radio talk hosts such as Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham are claiming that the immigration proposal is "amnesty" and that undocumented immigrants would not have to earn citizenship. In fact, the bill places a number of conditions on undocumented immigrants before they could apply for citizenship. Moreover, the federal government would have to meet several border enforcement guidelines before undocumented immigrants could take advantage of such a path.

    Here are five immigration experts who also dispute right-wing radio claims that the proposal is "amnesty":

  • Right-Wing Radio Renew False Cries Of "Amnesty" To Attack Immigration Bill

    Blog ››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

    Right-wing radio talk hosts are attacking the comprehensive immigration reform proposal as "amnesty," claiming undocumented immigrants will not have to earn citizenship. In fact, immigrants here illegally would face a number of hurdles before they could even apply for permanent residency under the bill, including paying fees, fines, and taxes.

    On her syndicated radio show, Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham repeatedly claimed that the Senate bill -- introduced on April 17 as the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" -- is "amnesty" because, according to her, undocumented immigrants will not be punished for breaking the law. She further stated: "This is amnesty. Within six months, every single person here illegally gets to be RPI. RPI is the provisional immigrant status. You get that in six months after the bill is signed."

    Rush Limbaugh also attacked the bill as "amnesty" on his radio show.

    In fact, the bill places a number of conditions on undocumented immigrants before they can apply for citizenship -- which is contingent upon the federal government meeting several border enforcement guidelines. Moreover, not all would qualify.

  • Poll Deflates Right-Wing Claims About Undocumented Immigrants And Welfare

    Blog ››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

    The findings of a poll that the majority of Latino immigrants who come to the United States illegally do so for economic opportunities and a better life for their families deflate the right-wing media myth that undocumented immigrants are more interested in taking advantage of government benefits.

    The poll released April 15 by Latino Decisions found that more than three quarters of undocumented immigrants from Latin America "came to the U.S. for better economic opportunity, or to create a better life for their family."

    From the poll:

    Opportunity is identified as the principal reason for coming to the United States. Overall, 77% came to the U.S. for better economic opportunity, or to create a better life for their family. Approximately 39% of our respondents said "better jobs and economic opportunity" as the reason for migration, while another 38% said "to create a better life for [your] family and children." Another 12% came to reunite with family members.

    Right-wing media have promoted the false narrative that undocumented immigrants come to the United States to gain access to government benefits to argue against immigration reform. 

    A recent Washington Post article quoted Center for Immigration Studies' research director Steven Camarota who peddled the claim  that undocumented immigrants "need" social government programs because they are supposedly more reliant on public services than native-born Americans.

    Fox News host Bill O'Reilly has said that immigration reform would mean more immigrants "on the welfare entitlement train;" the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore has warned that the U.S. welfare system could become a "magnet" for other immigrants; and Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin has argued that immigration reform would "rope more immigrants into [the] welfare state."

    Right-wing media figures have also used the tactic to demonize immigrants. Conservative pundit Ann Coulter, for example, has complained about "hordes of Mexicans collecting warfare."

  • Right-Wing Media Push Debunked Immigrant Welfare Claim


    Fox News and National Review Online gave credence to claims about immigrant's use of social benefits by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) without noting that immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to rely on such programs.

    In a Fox News segment about the cost of comprehensive immigration reform to taxpayers, host Neil Cavuto allowed CIS research director Steven Camarota to repeat the myth that immigrants use social benefits at higher rates than native-born Americans because they are less educated, and that, if given legal status, they would stay on welfare. Cavuto did not challenge any of Camarota's claims:

    Camarota's CIS counterpart, executive director Mark Krikorian, penned a column for National Review Online to further establish the myth, saying that, if you control for income, immigrants' rate of use of social benefit programs is less than that of poor Americans. He added that this means that "immigration imports a better class of underclass."

    Numerous studies have debunked the claim that immigrants use public benefits in greater numbers than Americans, which Krikorian admitted in his column, albeit with a clear caveat. Moreover, as the Cato Institute explained when it took issue with CIS' study on immigrants and their use of public benefits, CIS uses a flawed methodology that counts the American-born children of immigrants along with undocumented or legal immigrants to determine costs:

    Our approach of counting immigrant welfare use individually is used by the conservative state of Texas to measure immigrant use of government education and other benefits.  The Texas Comptroller's Office did not include the children of immigrants who were American citizens when calculating the cost to public services in Texas because, "the inclusion of these children dramatically increased the costs."


    In other words, counting the cost of the children of immigrants who are born citizens is a bad approach.  If we were to follow Camarota's methodology, why not count the welfare costs of the great-grandchildren of immigrants who use welfare or public schools today?  Our study, on the other hand, measures the welfare cost of non-naturalized immigrants and, where possible, naturalized Americans.

  • Fox Borrows "Fact" On Immigration Costs From Hate Group's Debunked Study


    A Fox News "fact" on the supposed costs of illegal immigration to U.S. taxpayers was lifted from a study by the anti-immigrant hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) that has been debunked as flawed.

    During a segment on Fox News' America's Newsroom discussing the new immigration reform plan soon to be released by a bi-partisan group in the Senate, Fox displayed a "Fox Facts" graphic as host Martha MacCallum interviewed Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC):

    This so-called fact is based on research from the anti-immigrant hate group FAIR. In 2010, FAIR released a study titled, "The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers," which found "the annual costs of illegal immigration at the federal, state and local level to be about $113 billion." At the time the study was released, defended both FAIR and the study.

  • Wash. Post Omits Crucial Facts In Article About Immigrants And Social Security

    Blog ››› ››› SOLANGE UWIMANA

    The Washington Post quoted the research director of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) arguing that immigrants are a drain on public services without noting that the center's analysis on the issue has been criticized as flawed. A study by the libertarian Cato Institute found that immigrants are actually less likely to rely on public benefits than native-born Americans.

    In an article examining the effect immigrants have on Social Security, the Post noted that many undocumented immigrants file tax returns and thus pay into the Social Security trust fund, even though they may never be able to access it themselves because they are legally unable to do so. As a counterpoint, the article then included the views of CIS' Steven Camarota:

    But Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, which supports limits on immigration, said that America's immigrants are not young or fecund enough to shore up the system.

    "If the immigrants all came at 20 and had seven or eight kids, you would see more of a difference," he said. The average immigrant arrives at age 30, and immigrant women have, on average, 2.1 children, according to the Pew Research Center.

    Camarota added that immigrants tend to be poorer than native-born Americans and are therefore more reliant on a wide range of public services. "If you bring in a lot of immigrants who are paying into Social Security but then need all these other social programs -- well, then you're not helping the situation."

    Analysts on both sides agree that increasing the number of highly skilled immigrants would shore up the system more than the Social Security Administration report accounts for, since high-skilled immigrants pay more taxes and spend more than low-skilled ones.

    However, in a study released in February, the Cato Institute found that immigrants are less likely than native-born Americans to use public services:

    [L]ow-income non-citizen immigrants, including adults and children, are generally less likely to receive public benefits than those who are native-born. Moreover, when non-citizen immigrants receive benefits, the value of benefits they receive is usually lower than the value of benefits received by those born in the United States. The combination of lower average utilization and smaller average benefits indicates that the overall cost of public benefits is substantially less for low-income non-citizen immigrants than for comparable native-born adults and children.

    Cato also noted that while immigrants' earnings tend to be lower than Americans' when beginning their careers, that changes over time as they invest more in education and training: "[W]hile immigrants begin with lower earnings, their incomes improve as they remain in the United States for longer periods. As immigrants remain longer in the United States, their English proficiency and other job skills improve, which heightens their earning potential."