Author David Cole explains in “Five Myths about Immigration” that people are misinformed about immigrants in America and blame them for all the problems in the American society. Cole comments that the “Native Americans”, which have nothing to do with what we call Native Americans today, were labeled as “Know-Nothings” because they simply did not know anything about immigrants and prejudged immigrants who came into the country. The author quotes one “Know-Nothing” for saying that “more than half the prisons and almshouses, more than half the police and the cost of administering criminal justice are for foreigners.” In the 1860s, immigrants arrived from Ireland and Germany causing “anti-alien and anti-Catholic sentiments” to appear in states such as Massachusetts and New York.
Cole takes this topic to heart because his ancestors were among the “dirt-poor Irish-Catholics” who moved to America in the 1960s but were fortunate because after fifteen years the prejudice faded away. Now, 140 years later, the author points out that a similar prejudice has returned with the exception that the focus has changed from “Irish Catholics and Germans” to “Latin Americans (most recently, Cubans), Haitians, and Arab-Americans.” Cole explains how five commonly held beliefs regarding immigrants to the United States, are in reality “myths.”
Cole’s first misunderstanding “myth” is that “America is being overrun with immigrants.” America is a “nation of immigrants”, which has been true since Christopher Columbus landed in this country. Although most Americans believe that foreign-born people make up a large population of the United States, Cole notes that only eight percent of immigrants fall in this category. In fact, “between seventy and eighty percent” of those who immigrate each year are “refugees and immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.” In addition, immigrants living in the United States only make up one percent of the country’s population. “Most aliens do not cross the border illegally,” emphasizes Cole, “but enter legally and remain after their student of visitor visa expires.”
Cole’s second “myth” is a misjudgment that “Immigrants take jobs from U.S. citizens.” This is a common misunderstanding Americans have about immigrants. It is easier for a person to point out that jobs are being taken away from U.S. citizens, Cole argues, than to admit that immigrants have indeed started successful business employing both citizens and immigrants alike. As documented by a 1994 A.C.L.U Immigrants’ Rights Project report, various studies prove that immigrants “create more jobs than they fill.” Cole mentions a study that found 78,000 new jobs were created in the Los Angeles County between 1970 and 1980 because of Mexican immigration. Cole comments how Governor Mario Cuomo of New York announced immigrants have provided thousands of jobs from 40,000 immigrant owned companies which provided “$3.5 billion to the state’s economy every year.”
Cole’s third “myth” includes the belief that “Immigrants are a drain on society’s resources.” Cole mentions that Americans feel immigrants should not receive government benefits, but according to a 1994 Urban Institute report, “immigrants generate significantly more in taxes paid than they cost in services received.” Studies demonstrate that taxes go to the federal government, states Cole, but when the “state and federal money” is distributed, the figures show no evidence about the cost of immigrants. The United States loses money on immigrants who recently moved to the county because they have not yet “made it.” For this reason, the author affirms that immigrants are a big advantage to the economy . Social programs are unavailable to undocumented immigrants, expresses Cole, but are granted rights to benefits of medical and nutritional care and education for children. Eliminating health care would “cost us more in the long run,” explains Cole.
Cole’s fourth “myth” involves he misconception that “Aliens refuse to assimilate, and are depriving us of our cultural and political unity.” Throughout history, immigrants have developed and created the “American culture” into what it is today, comments Cole. He quotes Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field for writing in 1984 that the Chinese “have remained among us a separate people, retaining their original peculiarities of dress, manners, habits, and modes of living, which are as marked as their complexion and language.” After five years, Field supported his remarks towards Chinese immigrants. Our society pressures immigrants to adapt to American culture, exerts Cole. For this reason, Cole raises the question is it ethical to “limit immigrants in a society” that is built upon the culture of past immigrants?
Cole’s final “myth” is “Noncitizen immigrants are not entitled to constitutional rights.” The Bill of Rights protects all people, Cole contends, only reserving for citizens the right to vote and run for a federal office position. In contrast, immigrants are still treated less than a U.S. citizen because they are foreigners. Cole points out that in 1893, the executive branch required Chinese laborers to prove their residency in the United States by the testimony of “at least one credible white witness” simply because “nonwhites could not be trusted.” Cole is handling a pending case in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that has the Clinton Administration arguing that legal immigrants living in the country should have no more First Amendment Rights than first-time immigrants coming into the United States “-that is, none.” Cole explains in an example that a non-citizen can be deported for expressing themselves the same way as a citizen is allowed to.
In conclusion, Cole acknowledges a quote that he was taught: “we will be judged by how we treat others.” By this standard, Cole goes on to explain that if we keep treating immigrants the way that we do right now, “we are not in very good shape.”