Thu, Feb 14, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Donald Trump is selling false stereotypes about immigrants

By Josh Boak  /  AP, WASHINGTON

US President Donald Trump has long railed against immigration as a scourge on the economy and national security. He has committed his administration to starting construction on a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration and asylum seekers, yet he reversed his past policy efforts on restricting legal immigration in this year’s State of the Union address.

Trump managed to accuse immigrants in the country illegally of stealing jobs from US workers, while declaring that the country needs more immigrants because of its economic boom. This argument rested on a series of false stereotypes.

“I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally,” he declared, only to say later: “Working-class Americans are left to pay the price for mass illegal immigration: reduced jobs, lower wages, overburdened schools, hospitals that are so crowded you can’t get in, increased crime and a depleted social safety net.”

That is a slight variation on his drumbeat going back to 2015, when he said: “They’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our manufacturing jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re killing us.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 75 percent of immigrants arrive legally.

In general, the entire immigrant population is increasingly better educated than native-born Americans.

They are more likely to have jobs. They are less likely to commit violent crimes. They help fuel economic growth and, as a group over time, they are no more a drain on taxpayers than native-born citizens.

Moreover, for all the attention to the southern border, in recent years immigrants to the US have been more likely to come from Asia than from Mexico.

Three Harvard University economists released a paper in June last year that looked at immigration in multiple countries and concluded that native-born Americans as a whole wildly overestimate the prevalence of immigrants.

These Americans estimated, on average, that legal immigrants made up 36 percent of the US population, more than triple their actual share.

They thought that immigrants were less likely to work and more dependent on government aid than immigrants actually are — and these stereotypes made them less supportive of social programs that might aid immigrants.

“We were surprised by how much of a misperception there was about the level of education, income and contribution to society that immigrants give,” said Alberto Alesini, a Harvard economist who cowrote the paper.

Here are some fundamental myths about US immigration and the economy:

MYTH: Vast numbers of immigrants are pouring across US borders.

REALITY: Not really.

The net flow of all migration into the US in recent years — about 0.3 percent of the total population — is roughly at a long-standing historical average, according to an analysis of government data by Lyman Stone, an economist who studies demographic issues.

“It isn’t rock-bottom, but it isn’t that high either,” Stone said.

Economists say that restricting immigration would probably weaken economic growth. Given today’s lower birthrates in the US, immigrants are increasingly needed to sustain a level of population growth for the US economy to keep expanding.

Immigrants as a whole do make up a greater percentage of the total US population than they did back in 1970, having grown from less than 5 percent of the population to more than 13 percent now.

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