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  • Article: The Rhetoric on Immigration Must Change. By Alex Muntean

    The Rhetoric on Immigration Must Change

    by


    immigration must change
    The fear and hatred of aliens has a long history in he United States. In its earliest forms, nativism took on a religious manifestation vilifying Catholics during the settlement period of the 1700’s and early 1800’s. Starting from the middle of the 19th century, nativist movements demonized the Italians, Germans, Russian Jews, and Irish and called for closing the frontier. This was followed by The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which was the first significant law restricting immigration in the U.S. The act imposed a 10 year moratorium against Chinese labor amid fears that workers were stealing the jobs and depressing wages.

    Unfortunately, the latest national political events have shown that anti-immigrant sentiment is hardly a thing from the past and is still alive and well in certain segments of American society. How ironic that in a country built and run by immigrants, the current political discourse focuses   mainly on manipulating fears by scapegoating immigrants and fueling political prejudice against newcomers.

    Not long ago, the current Republican front runner for presidential nomination described Mexican immigrants as rapists, criminals, and drug dealers. He claimed they were invading America allegedly pushed out by and with the support of the Mexican government. He argued that a wall to separate us from “them” and further militarizing the border was imperative if we were to survive as a nation. Strangely however, no evidence that hordes of criminals are descending upon the Southern border was ever provided. To the contrary, statistical evidence shows that Latin American immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than the native born and the flow of immigrants coming from Mexico has significantly decreased in the last 9 years.

    Overwhelming evidence shows that violent crime is lower among the immigrant population. A Harvard led study has even shown that an increase in immigration has led to a drop in crime rates in the late ‘90s and up to 2006. “Cities of concentrated immigration are some of the safest places around”, the study indicated. Data on incarceration rates reflect a similar pattern. White men born in America are twice as likely to end up incarcerated than individuals born abroad. Typically, individuals with less education are more likely to get incarcerated. Yet, the rate among incarcerated native-born without a high-school diploma is about 11%. Among similarly educated individuals from El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico, the incarceration rate drops to 2-3%.

    On the issue of the overall flow of immigrants to the U.S., Mexican immigrants have returned to Mexico at a higher rate than have migrated here. The Pew Research Center analysis estimates that from 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexicans and their families left the U.S., while 870,000 Mexicans left Mexico to immigrate to the United States. In fact, currently there are more immigrants are coming from Asia than Latin America. The Pew Center report shows that Asians surpassed Hispanics as the largest wave of immigrants to the United States: China had overtaken Mexico as the leading country for new immigrants.

    To defend ourselves against criminals coming into the United States, and for that matter against foreign-born terrorism, our border-control agencies must recalibrate their mission and better allocate their resources. Spending too much time nabbing Mexican-born workers willing to risk their life crossing a perilous border to make a living for their families leaves little resources to fight real national security threats.

    Contrary to popular myths, immigrants do not displace American workers or depress wages, and are not a burden to the U.S. economy. Overwhelmingly the data shows that immigration, both at high and low level of the skills spectrum, delivered a “significant positive gain” to the U.S. economy. Immigrants tend to fill high-skilled jobs in fields such as medicine, engineering, and computer science that cannot be filled by Americans. The presence of skilled immigration has a multiplier effect on the economy: immigrants expand the productive capacity of the U.S. workforce by stimulating investment and promoting specialization, which in turn produces more jobs and therefore raises demand for goods and services. On the lower-skilled end of the spectrum immigrants who work in labor-intensive industries and the service sector such as hotel and restaurants have little effect on wages of most domestic workers.

    Immigration is not a burden to the U.S. economy either. A summary from the National Academy of Science shows that a typical immigrant and his children will pay a net of $80,000 more in taxes during their lifetimes than they collect in government services. Most recently, The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) showed that undocumented immigrants contribute significantly to state and local taxes, collectively paying an estimated $11.64 billion a year.  Nationwide, undocumented immigrants pay on average an estimated 8% of their incomes in state and local taxes (this is their effective state and local tax rate).

    In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Europe there has been a resurgent wave of Islamophobia calling for registration of all Muslims in a database, closing down mosques, and even banning all Muslims from travelling to the U.S. Most recently, it has been suggested that law enforcement patrol Muslim neighborhoods to prevent terrorist attacks. The rhetoric has been nothing but dehumanizing to Arab and Muslim communities. There is absolutely no evidence that America’s Muslim community has embraced extreme views or has been radicalized and is prone to terrorism.

    The truth about American Muslims is that they are well integrated into our society. The Pew Research Center has estimated that Muslims make up less than 1% of the U.S. adult population. Overall, Muslim Americans have a generally positive view of the larger society. Most say their communities are excellent or good places to live. About half of them have attended college compared to 29% of the population as a whole. According to a Gallup poll Muslims have the second-highest level of education among major religious groups in the U.S. Gallup also reveals that Muslim women are among the most highly educated female religious groups in the country, second only to Jewish women.

    Many have called for this virulent anti-immigrant propaganda to end, but mainly to protect their political interests rather than to outright reject it as a fabrication designed to elicit votes by playing the anxieties and uncertainties of many. However, the facts will trump demagoguery. In reality, immigrants are crucially important to America. Immigrants enrich our culture, increase our productive capacity as a nation, and enhance our influence in the world.

    Immigration is central to American identity thus rhetoric against immigration insults our American identity.  Every American has a story about where their family “came from.” To be American is to be an immigrant—the only difference is the number of generations since landing in the country

    This post originally appeared on Charlotte Immigration Law Firm Immigration Blog. Reprinted with permission


    About The Author

    Alex Muntean Alex Muntean is an Immigration Lawyer in Charlotte NC. He is the founder and managing member of Charlotte Immigration Law Firm.


    The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
      ImmigrationLawBlogs -
      This is a timely call for sanity, instead of hatred and prejudice, in our immigration debate which all Americans of good will should support.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law
    1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
      Nolan Rappaport -
      I agree that the rhetoric on immigration must change, but I think you and the people who see immigration the way you do are the ones who need to change, not the people you complain about in your article. I do not know how much hatred and anti-immigrant sentiment there is throughout the country, but I have can give an opinion on how much of it there is in congress, which is where it counts for immigration reform purposes. I was the immigration counsel for the democrats on the Immigration Subcommittee for a long time and I did not see those sentiments. And I attended and prepared democratic members on the Judiciary Committee for every hearing and markup on immigration issues and for every bill on the floor, and I participated in every staff level negotiation between the parties on immigration issues and at conferences between the House and the Senate on bills with immigration issues. If the terrible anti-immigrant attitudes you are talking about existed, why didn't I see them? Things may have changed, but I have analyzed a number of hearings recently and I don't think so. I did see opposition to ILLEGAL immigration, but I don't think that's what you are talking about. Or is it?

      But let's assume arguendo that everything you say is right. What do you hope to accomplish by saying it? Do you think the people you are talking about will see the light and change their ways when you tell them they are wrong and that they have bad attitudes? I don't. Roger has been doing that for years, and he hasn't mentioned a single convert to me. My computer dictionary defines "rhetoric" as language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience. Your comments are not rhetoric by that definition if your intention is to make things better between the parties. Let's change the approach from telling republicans how bad their attitudes are to asking them how we can find compromises that would meet the political needs of both parties. I think approaching them with that attitude is far more likely to get a positive response than the approach you are taking.
    1. ImmigrationLawBlogs's Avatar
      ImmigrationLawBlogs -
      I would like to see Nolan's list of allegedly untrue statements about immigrants in Alex Muntean's article. I don't think it would be a very long one. In fact, I doubt that there would be any items on the list at all.

      If the "political needs" of one side in the immigration debate are served by telling the truth about immigrants, and the political needs of the other side are served by spreading vicious lies such as that immigrants from a given country are mostly criminals and rapists, or immigrants belonging a certain world religion are all suspected terrorists who are filled with hatred for America, maybe it is better to stick with the truth than to try to compromise with falsehood, hatred and prejudice.

      Roger Algase
      Attorney at Law
    1. Nolan Rappaport's Avatar
      Nolan Rappaport -
      Quote Originally Posted by ImmigrationLawBlogs View Post
      I would like to see Nolan's list of allegedly untrue statements about immigrants in Alex Muntean's article. I don't think it would be a very long one. In fact, I doubt that there would be any items on the list at all.]

      I didn't that he made untrue statements about immigrants. I said he talked about anger and hostility towards immigrants that I didn't see in congress when I was an immigration counsel on the Judiciary Committee. Then I said that talking about the bad attitude Republicans have towards immigrants doesn't serve any purpose, that it would be better to stop making such accusations and try instead to work with the republicans on a compromise that would solve the political needs of both parties.

      [If the "political needs" of one side in the immigration debate are served by telling the truth about immigrants, and the political needs of the other side are served by spreading vicious lies such as that immigrants from a given country are mostly criminals and rapists, or immigrants belonging a certain world religion are all suspected terrorists who are filled with hatred for America, maybe it is better to stick with the truth than to try to compromise with falsehood, hatred and prejudice. Roger Algae Attorney at Law
      I didn't hear any congressmen or staffer tell vicious lies about immigrants or express hostility or hatred of any kind towards them, and congress is where immigration reform will take place, if at all.
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