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Viral Email: "Unpleasant Reality"

October 15, 2010 9:33 am ET

The following email has been widely forwarded.  Media Matters Action Network has written a response to the text below.  Please feel free to copy and paste it and send to your friends.

"Unpleasant Reality"

[Note - All mistakes below are original to the text. The spacing of the email has been slightly reformatted for legibility.]

Response

Hey guys,

Thanks for forwarding me this email. $300 billion is a lot of money, so I thought I'd look into some of what the email said about how much immigrants are costing American taxpayers. It looks like the email wasn't exactly telling you the whole truth.

I clicked on the links to see where they went. Most of them didn't even work, but the ones that did went to organizations like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) and the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). I was curious about what those were, so I looked them up, and - yikes. This website (http://www.splcenter.org/publications/the-nativist-lobby-three-faces-of-intolerance/cis-the-independent-think-tank) says that CIS was founded by someone who has ties to some pretty ugly racist groups. And FAIR was run by the same guy! I definitely don't want to get my facts on immigration from someone who's motivated by racism.

Anyway, despite what this email says, it turns out immigration is actually good for the economy. I found a really interesting article from the San Francisco Chronicle that explains it. This is what it says:

There's no dispute that a larger pool of workers -- whether legal or illegal -- boosts gross domestic product. More workers means more output. More people means more consumers spending money on food, rent and a range of necessities and luxuries. A better question is: How do immigrants affect the size of the economy per U.S.-born citizen? 'GDP per domestic person goes up,' said James Smith, a senior economist at the Rand think tank in Santa Monica and lead author of the National Research Council's study 'The New Americans: Economic, Demographic and Fiscal Effects of Immigration.

You can read the whole article here: http://articles.sfgate.com/2006-05-21/news/17295663_1_illegal-immigration-low-skilled-george-borjas

And it turns out that if we were to legalize low-skilled immigrant workers, it could help the economy even more. The Cato Institute, which is a pretty conservative libertarian organization, says that legalization could help the economy by $180 billion. Their full report is here: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10438

It is true that immigrants -- both documented and undocumented - do benefit from government programs, just like native-born Americans. But immigrants contribute way more to the economy than they cost the government. Another Cato Institute study says that "increased economic activity created by lower-skilled, mostly Hispanic immigrants far exceeds the costs to state and local governments." In North Carolina for example, immigrants cost the state $61 million - but they also increased the state's economy by $9 billion. So on the whole, they're adding money into the economy, not costing states billions like the email claims. And did you know that a lot of undocumented immigrants even pay taxes? The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 75 percent of undocumented immigrants have taxes withheld from their paychecks or file tax returns.

That Cato study is here in case you want to look at it: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=10658#16

And the CBO report is here: http://cbo.gov/ftpdocs/87xx/doc8711/12-6-Immigration.pdf

One of the other things the email gets wrong is about undocumented immigrants in jail. One of the things I found when I was figuring out this email is that studies indicate that foreign-born are actually less likely to be incarcerated than U.S.-born men. One study in California says that U.S.-born men are institutionalized at a rate that's ten times higher than foreign-born men. You can read that study here: http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/cacounts/CC_208KBCC.pdf#page=2

And the claim that immigrants are taking jobs away from Americans? Well, actually, the Immigration Policy Center says that immigration - either legal or illegal - doesn't cause high unemployment. They point out that if immigrants took jobs away from American citizen, then you'd have the highest unemployment rates where there are the highest numbers of immigrants - but that's not the case. Here's where the Immigration Policy Center explains all this: http://www.immigrationpolicy.org/just-facts/immigration-reform-and-job-growth

It's hard to check a lot of the specific numbers when the links don't work, but all of the reliable information I've found shows that whatever immigrants may cost the government, their positive effect on the economy is far greater.

I guess it's not surprising that an email that cites organizations like FAIR and CIS and that uses derogatory terms like "anchor babies" would try to convince you that immigration is a bad thing, though. It's pretty clear that their motive is to keep a certain type of person out of the United States, not to help the country or the economy.

Talk to you soon!



 


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