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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Clearing the air: Misconceptions skew immigration debate

    W hen immigration officials crashed through the doors of a New Bedford, Mass., furniture factory, they were hoping to show the Bush administration’s determination to enforce immigration laws. With at least a half of a dozen children left without parents, what the administration got instead was a humanitarian crisis.

    One might be tempted to congratulate the federal government for doing something about illegal immigration, but let us be the first to dissuade you from any premature shows of support. This raid, like so many others, is a waste of time, rooted as it is in a host of popular but ultimately wrong-headed misconceptions.

    Most complaints related to illegal immigration seem to center on a few rather poorly supported arguments, beginning with the notion that illegal immigrants are taking more from this country than they are giving.

    Not so. Earlier this month, the Pew Hispanic Center published a study that found Hispanic workers were hired for two out of every three construction jobs in the U.S. In fact, of the 2.9 million Hispanics working in the construction industry, 2.2 million (or 19 percent of the industry as a whole) are foreign-born Hispanics.

    Those kinds of numbers might illustrate immigrants’ contributions to our economy, but it usually doesn’t quiet the bluster of the Minutemen or other groups who claim that illegal immigrants drain state resources and contribute to higher crime rates.

    Again, it’s time to disabuse xenophobes of such faulty notions. While the extent to which illegal immigrants consume state resources at the expense of U.S. citizens has never been clearly defined, it is clear that passing laws to deny immigrants those services doesn’t seem to result in any discernible savings.

    The lessons of nearby Colorado are instructive: After legislators there passed the toughest set of immigration laws in the country, Colorado state agencies are having to spend exorbitant sums to comply with the laws and there’s no indication that the rules are saving any money.

    According to The Denver Post, 18 state agencies reported an additional $2.03 million in costs without saving any money. More importantly, “”none of the departments could say how many, if any, illegal immigrants were being denied state-funded services.””

    Suspicions that illegal immigrants cause higher crime rates are similarly baseless. The Immigration Policy Center reported earlier this month that immigrants (illegal or otherwise) have incarceration rates that are five times lower than native-born citizens, despite the fact that nearly three-quarters of Americans told the National Opinions Research Center they think immigrants are likely to cause higher crime rates.

    So it goes in the hard-fought (and seemingly zero-sum) immigration debate, but one would hope that officials would consider these misconceptions before signing off on immigration raids like the one in New Bedford or Greeley, Colo.

    Immigration is that rare kind of issue that lends itself well to disingenuous claims that sound truthful, but it’s time we consider the real face of immigration before rushing to pass ineffectual legislation based on skewed assumptions.

    Opnions Board
    Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Damion LeeNatali, Stan Molever, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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