Immigration Myths

Myths and Facts of Immigration

Anti-immigration groups often propagate myths to support their agenda. Several of these myths are addressed below—together with the facts to set the record straight.

Myth Number 1: Most immigrants are a drain on the U.S. economy.

Fact: Immigrants are good for the American economy and pay taxes.

  • Undocumented immigrants are not eligible for any federal benefits – no matter how hard they work, and no matter how hungry they may be, they cannot receive food stamps, welfare, or Medicare.
  • Immigrants pay taxes: The typical immigrant and his or her descendants pay an estimated $80,000 more in taxes than they will receive in benefits over their lifetimes. All immigrants pay sales, property, and income taxes. Undocumented immigrants can pay state and federal taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service. Social Security funds contributed by undocumented immigrants amount to nearly $6 billion annually.
  • The population of Massachusetts and Berkshire County is declining. New immigrants moving into this area help to stimulate our economy.

Myth Number 2: Immigrants take jobs away from Americans.

Fact: Immigrants do not take jobs away from Americans. Here’s why:

  • Berkshire County has shown a shrinking labor force over the past few years and needs immigrant labor to fill jobs.
  • Between 2000 and 2004, 511 % of employment growth in Massachusetts was due to new immigrants.
  • Immigrants now make up 17% of the Massachusetts labor force.
  • Immigrants are extremely hard working often taking on 2-3 jobs to support family both in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Immigrants often fill labor-intensive jobs that American citizens are not choosing to do.

Myth Number 3: Undocumented immigrants could come to this country legally or become legal once they are here, if they simply took the time to fill out the correct paperwork.

Fact: Most undocumented immigrants want nothing more than to play by the rules and legalize their status. However, the simple fact is that under our outdated immigration laws, most of them have no legal way to enter or remain in the United States.

Myth Number 4: America is being overrun by immigrants.

Fact: The number of immigrants living in the United States remains relatively small as a percentage of the total population. The annual rate of legal immigration is low by historical measures.

Myth Number 5: Immigrants aren’t really interested in becoming part of American society.

Fact: Immigrants want to be part of America.

  • Immigrants believe in the American Dream. A CNN/USA Today poll reported that more immigrants than natives believe that hard work and determination are the keys to success in America, and that fewer immigrants than natives believe that immigrants should be encouraged to “maintain their own culture more strongly.”
  • Immigrants want to become proficient in English and do learn English. Only 3 percent of long-term immigrants do not speak English well.

Myth Number 6: Immigrants contribute little to American society.

Fact: Immigrants make significant contributions to America:

  • Immigrant entrepreneurs across America have emerged as key engines of growth for cities and help to revive commerce in depressed areas. Immigrants contribute enormously to the local culture and business atmosphere of Berkshire County as evidenced by a growing influx of ethnic events and immigrant-owned restaurants and businesses.
  • Immigrant businesses provide needed goods and services, address particular needs of distinctive ethnic niches, attract new customers into neighborhoods, and provide employment opportunities.
  • The contributions of immigrants in the areas of health care, science and technology are enormous.
  • Consider the contributions of these famous immigrants: Albert Einstein, Madeline Albright, Joseph Pulitzer, Hakeem Olajuwan, Martina Navratilova, Irving Berlin, and Ang Lee among many many others!
  • Immigrants make up nearly 5% of all Armed Forces personnel and 7% of Navy personnel.

Myth Number 7: Immigrants increase crime.

Fact: Immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or to be behind bars than are the native-born.

  • Immigrants in every ethnic group in the United States have lower rates of crime and imprisonment than do the native-born.

For more information about the myths and fact of immigration and for source materials, please contact: The Berkshire Immigrant Center at (413) 445-4881 or