Your Ultimate Guide To The Myths And Realities Of The Immigration Debate

(Credit: AP Photos)

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin markups of a bipartisan immigration bill that seeks to fix a broken immigration system by enhancing border security, expanding an employment verification system, and investing in legalizing individuals who would fiscally and innovatively contribute to the work force. Republicans submitted over two thirds of the three hundred amendments by the Tuesday deadline.

In light of Thursday’s intense debate which is earmarked for trigger provisions, here are some of the immigration myths and its reality counterpart that may be helpful as a reference during the markup debate:

Myth Reality
Undocumented immigrants are moochers.
“Heritage is the only organization that has done an analysis of the cost. Unlawful immigrants make up about two percent of our GDP, and they consume most of that. If you consider all the factors of amnesty and unlawful immigration, the cost will be in the trillions of dollars over the lifetime of these unlawful immigrants.” [Sen. DeMint (R-SC), 05/05/2013]
A report found that within ten years of the bill’s enactment, the GDP would increase by $832 billion. According to Stephen Goss, chief actuary for the Social Security Administration, undocumented workers take out $1 billion through payroll taxes, but contribute $15 billion a year to Social Security. Few undocumented immigrants can ever withdraw from the trust fund so it seems less surprising that undocumented workers have put in over $300 billion, or nearly 10 percent, of the $2.7 trillion Social Security Trust Fund.
Legalizing immigrants will bankrupt Americans.
“The study you’ll see from Heritage…presents the staggering costs of another amnesty in our country and the detrimental effects, long-term, that that will have. There’s no reason we can’t begin to fix our immigration system so that we won’t make this problem worse. But the bill that’s being presented is unfair to those who came here legally; it’ll cost Americans trillions of dollars; it’ll make our unlawful immigration system worse.” [Sen. DeMint (R-SC), 05/05/2013]
Any costs spent on legalizing immigrants will be mitigated by the economic benefits that they generate. Sen. Rubio (R-FL) said of the Heritage Foundation report, “They are the only group that’s looked at this issue and reached the conclusion they’ve reached. Everybody else who has analyzed immigration reform understands that if you do it, and we do it right, it will be a net positive for our economy.”

Additionally Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute said, “there is a consensus that, on average, the incomes of families in this country are increased by a small, but clearly positive amount, because of immigration.”

Immigrants reduce the salaries of American workers.
“I think we need to understand as Commissioner Kirsanow has so eloquently stated that this large flow of workers will impact working Americans significantly. It will reduce their salaries.” [Sen. Sessions (R-AL), 05/03/2013]
Numerous studies have been done to indicates that immigrants raise the wages of American workers. In low-skill and high-skill labor, immigrants serve complementary roles to native workers by working as farmers or busboys to maintain farms or restaurants. According to a study commissioned by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the large flow of legalized immigrants will actually help to create 3.2 million jobs over the ten years after the bill’s enactment.
There would be an explosive growth of 30 million new immigrants to America’s population.
The senator warned that the bill would bring “explosive growth” in immigration, providing work authorization and legal status to more than 30 million immigrants over the next 10 years. [Sen. Sessions (R-AL), 05/03/2013]
A Center for American Progress study indicates that up to 11 million people may eventually qualify for citizenship, but that “these people are already living here.” The explosive growth would never transpire, rather the bill’s passage would stem the flow of about 150,000 individuals from entering the country.
Immigrants with high school degrees rely on welfare.
“In 1960, the average immigrant had about the same education and skill level of an American citizen. Today, immigrants have — they’re four times less likely to even have a high school diploma. And now with all of our welfare benefits, the arithmetic for immigration is totally different.” [Sen. DeMint (R-SC), 05/05/2013]
A report found that more than half of all undocumented immigrants have at least a high school diploma while another 15 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree. Immigrants of all skills levels profoundly contribute to the society and even when legalized, they do not receive public benefits at a rate that exceeds their native peers.
Criminals will be eligible for registered provisional immigrant (RPI) status.
“One witness also testified that the bill provides exemptions for certain criminals, making some eligible for legalization under this bill. Those who have been convicted of serious offenses may still have the ability to apply for the Registered Provisional Immigrant status.” [Sen. Grassley (R-IA), 04/23/2013]
The bill disqualifies RPI applicants with one felony and with at least three misdemeanors. A Gang of Eight press release stated,“ Individuals with a serious criminal background or others who pose a threat to our national security will be ineligible for legal status and subject to deportation. Illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes face immediate deportation.”
The border triggers are ineffective.
“If enacted today, the bill would provide no pressure on this Secretary – or even a future Secretary — to secure the borders. Madam Secretary, you have stated that the border is stronger than ever before. You’ve even indicated that Congress should not hold up legalization by adding border security measures and requiring them to be a trigger for the program.”
[Sen. Grassley (R-IA), 04/23/2013]
At the Senate Judiciary Committee, Secretary Napolitano indicated that multiple measures would give a clear indication of border security. Border triggers will be enforced through a multiple approach that combines “data from apprehension rates, crime rates, and reports from agents along the border as well as examining trends along the border.”
Fences will not be built.
“There is an assumption here that illegal immigration will end [under this plan], but that is just not the case. The triggers are not going to work…There’s no requirement of fencing.” [Sen. Sessions (R-AL), 05/03/2013]
With over $1.5 billion allotted for border fencing, the Congressional Budgetary Office pegs that border security would cost about $17 billion. Additionally the Senate immigration bill stipulates that a double-layered fencing strategy would be built along the southern border.
The student visas provision must be strengthened.
“…nothing in the bill deals with student visas or improving the way we oversee schools who accept foreign nationals…It’s surprising that the administration isn’t already verifying that any student coming into the country has a valid student visa.” [Sen. Grassley (R-IA), 4/23/2013]
At the Senate Judiciary Committee, Napolitano stated, “One of the things that we are doing now is checking manually the most recent student visa information because…it changes all the time, students add, students drop, etc., with customs information, which is held in a different place. For the time being, that’s actually being done manually,” she said.
She further said, “We are constantly balancing our security needs and the need to be as foolproof as possible with the need and the fact that, for example, traffic needs to travel across our land borders. People need to be able to come and go. That appropriate balance is something that is constantly looked at throughout DHS.”
Entry and exit systems will not rely on biometric identification.
“The bill before us weakens the entry/exit system by not requiring biometric identifiers or not deploying the system to land ports. If this bill were to pass as is, we’ll continue to rely on airline personnel to properly type a name into a computer and not on biometric identifiers.”
[Sen. Grassley (R-IA), 04/23/2013]
Napolitano testified, “The bill will help with this because it requires that passports be electronically readable, as opposed to having to be manually input,” she said. “It does a really good job of getting human error, to the extent it exists, out of the process.”
Individuals who commit asylum fraud can still apply to become registered provisional immigrants.
“The bill would do away with the one year bar that makes aliens come forward in a reasonable time frame if they are seeking asylum. It also allows any individual whose case was ever denied based on the one year bar to get their case reopened. Those who file frivolous asylum applications can still apply for the legalization program despite the current provision that bars relief under the immigration law.” [Sen. Grassley (R-IA), 4/23/2013]
The provision in the bill allows asylum reapplications within the one year deadline only if the application was “denied asylum based solely upon a failure to meet the 1-year application filing deadline”; is no longer in removal proceedings; has not been barred from applying; and must be present in the United States at the time of application. U.S. immigration law already prohibits granting asylum from individuals who commit terrorist activities. Additionally in an April Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Napolitano testified saying that asylum applicants will be “thoroughly interviewed and vetted, run through databases, fingerprinted and vetted again when they become eligible for a green card and ultimately citizenship.”