It's a rare thing for a journalist to get a scoop that blows the lid off a story which is taking the headlines of the day, much less to find that scoop in ordinary, credible sources on the Internet. But - whether a Trump supporter or not - an objective look at the available information shows that illegal immigrants, although still illegal, are getting a bad rap. No one needs to stop being concerned about the problem, if that is where one's passions lie. But honesty compels we on the reporting side to acknowledge the truth, which is the opposite of common misconceptions. There is not a sudden, recent flood of illegal immigrants. They do not come up here for the welfare. And they tend to commit less crimes of all kinds than native born Americans.
Which is not to say that it is not everyone's right to hate on anyone they want. That's part of freedom too. But to base opprobrium on reasons that are non-existent might call for a fact-check. So in the interest of this, here we go.
Myth Number One: The problem is worse than ever, with an unprecedented wave of brown people attempting to swamp our beautiful, mostly white country. Fact: Makes a good Doomsday movie, but the facts are startling. Border Patrol data shows the number of apprehensions of people crossing the Mexican border illegally to have plunged since 2011 to 1970s levels. This, in tandem with data showing that the rough number of illegals in the US has stayed the same in that time means that at least as many are leaving as are coming in.
Sure, not as fun as chanting "Build the Wall!" for our Orwellian Two Minutes of Hate at a Trump rally, but unless the government's own figures are way off, it is an inescapable conclusion. If a water level in a vessel is staying the same, water can't be flowing in faster than it is draining out. Furthermore, the Border Patrol arrest data suggests that many fewer arrests corresponds with many fewer attempts, unless the Border Patrol's batting average is going down. In other words, it is becoming incompetent. Many consider this unlikely as the BP is known roundly as a highly professional force which does what it does, with the resources it has, very well.
Myth Number Two: Illegal immigrants are coming here for welfare benefits. Again, makes an infuriating narrative, but the conservative CATO Institute reports in "Don’t Blame Immigrants for Bloated Welfare State":
"One reason why immigrants use fewer benefits is because they are often not eligible for them. Legal immigrants cannot get welfare for their first five years of residency, with few exceptions, mostly at the state level. Illegal immigrants are not eligible for welfare except for rare circumstances like emergency Medicaid. Immigrants are drawn to America’s labor markets, not to welfare benefits."
The article also sees fit to note:
"The number of illegal immigrants apprehended on the Southwest border, a good proxy measurement for the number who want to come here, is down by 82 percent in 2017 compared to 2000."
It might vary from state to state, but overall, the federal law for TANF (welfare) and SNAP (food stamps) is pretty clear. It's a bad bet to hazard a journey across scorching desert to fight with a government agency which might report you. It's the 16 hours a day at minimum wage - hundreds of dollars - which is mucho dinero in a place where much of the population lives on two-dollars-a-day. That's what's coming home over the Western Union
And speaking of Western Union, it sounds tough to say just tax remittances at a hefty third and make it pay for a wall. If there is one thing we know about money, it always finds a way to flow around a dam if it wants to. Before Western Union, workers would return home with $10,000 bank checks zipped up in their money belts. They could go back to that. Start requiring documentation at banks, and underground businesses will spring up with people with documentation laundering money for people without it. For a steep fee.
Finally there is:
Myth Number Three: Illegal immigrants commit violent crimes in disproportionate numbers. Yes immigrants commit violent crimes, and yes, one is too many. But for people who may not understand the meaning of per capita, it is at a far lower rate, percentage-wise, than natives. Again from the CATO Institute is one example:
"[There were] 56 percent fewer criminal convictions of illegal immigrants than of native-born Americans in Texas in 2015,"
Bearing the same conclusion is a study from the journal Criminology.
It is never hard to pick out a particularly heinous crime committed by an MS-13 member and put it all over the front page. It does not follow that all, most, or even many, of the Hispanics coming over the border are MS-13. Again, no one is saying illegal immigration is not a problem. But we should be honest about it. It is no more of a problem now than it has been for awhile. No hordes of raping, killing gang members are sneaking across the desert. Most of them are otherwise law-abiding people who just want to work.
That said, the recent Central America wave is particularly poignant, in that they are asking for political asylum from countries that are murder capitals of the world, with government and police corruption beyond belief. These countries, it should be remembered, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, are all victims of US intervention when they tried to have their own revolutions. The governments the US backed were utterly genocidal.
There is a way to stop the problem which Americans don't like to face. It isn't a wall. It is to address the problem at the incentive level. Jail the US employers who hire the illegal immigrants. There is nothing like a few examples of serious jail time to put the chill an anything.
But then what would politicians fill the airwaves with, if the issue was not kept at a shrill hysteria? The out-of-control national debt? The falling behind of the American middle class? How the richest 1% of Americans now own fully 40% of the country's wealth?
Best keep it going.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on January 16, 2019:
Well said. People have the strangest ideas about immigrants and I'm guessing they get those from right-wing radio agitators and from Fox News.