I am exhausted by the hateful arguments deployed against immigrants in our country – the United States, a place that has been called the Land of Opportunity. While it is true to say that America is a country of immigrants, it requires a short memory to believe that fear and distrust of immigrants are unique to our time: historically, whenever the country has faced hardship, it has always been easier to blame ‘the others’ and than to see the problems in ‘us’. Fortunately, we are in a position today to educate each other on the truth about immigrant contributions to our economy and our culture. Let us examine some of the prevailing myths surrounding immigrants in America.
Myth or truth? Immigrants are taking advantage of American taxpayers…
A country’s future can be seen in the average age of its population. Europe’s global economic influence has faded while Japan’s economy has stagnated. Why? Because as their populations age, these countries are becoming less productive and more burdened by social benefits. American society would be in a similar situation, collapsing under the weight of its own social security system, if not for the ongoing influx of young, vibrant, and hard-working immigrants.
Foreign workers on H-1B visas, who are wrongly blamed for the job loss of native-born Americans, pay social security taxes out of their paychecks, without ever knowing if they will be able to stay more than their initial 3 years of H-1B authorized stay; in many ways, immigrants contribute to American programs they may never benefit from, without the protections afforded to American citizens. They can be fired at the whim of their employers with a minimum grace period to stay while they think over the next steps for their future. When that happens, they are not entitled to unemployment insurance, although they paid for it through taxation, since they have to leave promptly under the law; their house and/or possessions have to be sold, their lease must end abruptly, and their children cannot finish out their school year.
Further, a majority of undocumented immigrants are paying American taxes as well – whether through a false social security card or tax identification number and through everyday purchases and rent. The true beneficiaries of our broken tax system are the rich, who are able take advantage of tax shelters, complex legal loopholes, and government subsidies.
Ultimately, immigrants are an important part of the tax base: they pay for our elderly, our highways, Medicare, our schools, and even for our military.