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Immigration Myth Busting #1

In this weekly series we debunk the most common ‘myths’ that that are used to justify anti-immigration policies and claims.

Myth No. 1: ‘The U.S. is currently being overwhelmed by “illegal” immigrants’

Fact: The number of undocumented/unauthorized individuals in the U.S. peaked in 2007 during the George W. Bush administration. It has been declining consistently in the years since and today accounts for around 3.2% of the U.S. population. In the past 10+ years, immigration from Mexico has remained at net zero as more Mexicans have been departing the U.S. than those entering.

Undocumented immigrants typically have access to fewer resources and are forced to accept lower-paying jobs than documented immigrants. They are commonly forced to seek work in highly unregulated industries that offer few protections, such as agriculture, building maintenance (cleaning), and construction. For example, while 4.3% of all workers nationally are estimated to be undocumented, they make up nearly 20% of the agricultural workforce in the U.S.

Although research has repeatedly found that both documented and undocumented immigrants commit fewer crimes than U.S. citizens, Donald Trump repeatedly exploited the stereotype of ‘immigrant criminality’ and a nation ‘under siege’ to fuel his rise to national political prominence. In fact, although they made a convenient scapegoat with which to whip his supporters’ nativist instincts into a frenzy, Trump never actually intended to deport all the millions of undocumented individuals currently in the U.S. Trump understands that not only his business empire, but the entire U.S. economy, depends on a cheap, exploitable labor force.]

As history professor Aviva Chomsky reminds us, “The prosperity of some within our borders has always depended on the cheap labor of others from both inside and outside our borders. This cheap labor has been justified and guaranteed by excluding certain workers from the categories of people who are afforded rights.” Indeed, rather than being ‘overwhelmed’ by unauthorized immigrants, citizens have them to thank for much of their own prosperity and comfort.



· Chomsky, A. ’They Take Our Jobs!’ and 20 Other Myths about Immigration: Expanded Edition’, 2018.

· Pew Research Center, Key Findings about U.S. Immigrants, 2020.

· Light, M., He, J., Robey, P. Comparing crime rates between undocumented immigrants, legal and native-born US citizens in Texas.

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