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Five Myths About Immigration in the U.S.

Posted on July 11th, 2011 by Alejandra Okie 5 Comments

By Alejandra Okie

We are a nation of immigrants. In 1990, the U.S. Census asked one out of six households what their ancestry or ethnic origin was. Here’s what they said:

  • German: 15.2 percent
  • Irish: 10.8 percent
  • African-American: 8.8 percent
  • English: 8.7 percent
  • Mexican: 6.5 percent
  • Italian: 5.6 percent

Although many of us have an abuela or nonna who came to the United States as an immigrant, in general most of us know very little about the current immigration policy in the U.S. and the impact immigrants have in our society.

Here are five common myths about immigrants and immigration in the U.S.:

1- Immigrants come to the U.S. to have babies so they can immediately get citizenship: FALSE

Parents who give birth to a child in the U.S. must wait for their child to be 21 years of age before he or she can apply for residency on their behalf.

2- Immigrants come to the U.S. to live off government assistance programs: FALSE

Most undocumented immigrants cannot receive benefits from the following major federal public assistance programs:

  • SNAP (Food Stamps)
  • Social Security
  • Medicaid
  • TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
  • HUD Public Housing Section 8

3- Immigrants don’t pay taxes or Social Security: FALSE

4- If immigrants want to come to the U.S. they can just apply to become U.S. citizens: FALSE

Immigrants must meet certain requirements in order to apply for permanent residency (green cards) and U.S. citizenship. Most immigrants who want to come to the U.S. legally may not meet the requirements, which are based on:

  • Family relationship: A person petitions, or files paperwork for an immediate family member, such as a spouse, child (under 21 years of age and unmarried) or parent. Petitions can also be filed for sisters, brothers and married children, but the process could take years.
  • Employment: a company files the immigration paperwork for an employee with very specialized skills
  • Fear of persecution: a person proves that they fear being persecuted in their home country
  • Diversity Visa Lottery: An immigrant who meets the education level requirement and is from a country with very low rates of immigration to the U.S. applies for one of 50,000 visas given each year.

5- The proposed Dream Act would open the floodgate for immigrant youth and their families to become U.S. citizens: FALSE

The proposed Dream Act would give certain immigrant students who grew up in the U.S. a chance to apply for conditional immigrant status and apply for U.S. citizenship after many years if they go to college or serve in the military. Only around 755,000 students could benefit from the DREAM Act. They wouldn’t be able to petition for residency for their parents if they also entered the country without documents. In 2010 the House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act but the Senate voted it down. The DREAM Act may be reintroduced in 2011.

Resources:

AVVO Immigration Guide

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Travel.State.gov

National Immigration Law Center

Photo: ell brown

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5 Responses

  1. Yahweh Son says:

    I just want to make a quick correction to your story on immigration. The majority of African-Americans are NOT immigrants, we were brought here through slavery. To be consider an immigrant one must immigrate usually by choice and not force. Other than that great article.

    • Alejandra Okie says:

      Thank you for your feedback. The article mentions the different ethnic and cultural groups that identified themselves on Census forms. African-Americans are not mentioned as an immigrant group, just as part of the ethic and racial diversity in the U.S. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify this.

  2. Ana says:

    I’m shocked to learn that immigrants paid billions of dollar in taxes and are still banned from certain services from the federal government. How is the “no taxation without representation” policy working out for these people.

    Besides, isn’t it the “real” americans who hire these immigrants because they don’t want to do hard labor themselves?

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