Activate your BS detector: You’re gonna need it for the immigration-reform debate

Right-wing politicians, their media allies—and probably somebody at work or in your family—are peddling a lot of bull about immigration reform, a topic that is once again heating up in Congress. To counter the myths and misinformation, the progressive Media Matters has created a handy one-pager of counter-talking points. Here are some of the highlights. You can try them out the next time your BS detector red-lines and your blood starts to boil, but there’s no guarantee that facts will make a difference. Of course, you knew that.

BS statement #1: “Legalization is amnesty.”
Not really. We’re talking about giving people the chance to earn citizenship — after waiting years and meeting multiple requirements, like learning English and passing a background check. It’s in all our interests to give them that opportunity to continue contributing to America.

And, by the way, politicians who say we can deport 11 million people aren’t being honest. It doesn’t make financial sense either: it would cost us a quarter of a trillion dollars and cost our economy billions.

It’s also worth noting that President George W. Bush supported created a road to citizenship, and now, a bipartisan group of senators is leading the way with a proposal that includes earned citizenship for immigrants.

BS statement #2: “The Southwestern border is less secure than before.”
Fox News recently [April 2013] aired a report using skewed time periods and statistics to “prove” that immigration arrests at the border are at an all-time high. In fact, crime along the border is down, illegal border crossing under President Obama are at historic lows, and border security benchmarks have been met or even exceeded in some places.

Why? The border is more secure than ever, partially because federal government has ramped up enforcement resources in recent years—to the tune of $18 billion per year. At the same time, Mexico’s economy has been growing at a good rate for the past decade — better than America’s — giving people less reason to leave and immigrate to the U.S.

BS statement #3: “Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes.”

Not true. First of all, everyone pays sales taxes, state and local taxes, and property taxes. Many Immigrants say that they would love to be in the system and pay regular taxes like any other American citizen. That is their dream.

In addition, many do also manage to pay income and payroll taxes, paying nearly $15 billion into Social Security each year, though they cannot collect benefits.
BS statement #4:  “Immigrants will take jobs away from American workers.”

We’ve heard that one many times before—with every wave of new immigration. The Irish, the Germans, the Jews, the Chinese. This is merely the latest incarnation of an old, disproven argument.

Research shows clearly that immigrant workers help grow the economy overall, leading to lower unemployment and higher wages for those of us already here. That’s partly because immigrants and workers born in the U.S. generally don’t compete for the same jobs. Even with highly skilled workers, higher immigration increases the demand for workers, stimulates investment, and promotes specialization for many workers already in the labor force.

Most importantly, fair and practical immigration reform will allow us to crack down on businesses that undercut American workers by exploiting cheap immigrant labor off the books. That levels the playing field for honest businesses that play by the rules and pay their workers decently.

Because immigrants are also consumers and taxpayers, comprehensive immigration reform would be good for the economy. That’s common sense — the more people we have buying food, clothing, housing, and cars, the more businesses need to hire to keep up.
BS statement #5: “Illegal immigrants come to the United States to take advantage of government welfare.”

Okay, let’s get this straight, people: Federal programs like food stamps have always excluded undocumented immigrants, and the leading immigration reform proposals on the table do not even give immigrants with legal status access to federal public programs.

Ask anyone in your own family why they came to America [and someone in every American citizen’s history was, in fact, an immigrant, unless you are a Native American, and that’s a whole different story.] People come to America for the opportunity to work to get ahead, to make life better for themselves and their families. Most families moved here in the past for the same reason that American immigrants move here today — to seek freedom and a better life for their children.
B.S. statement #6: “The Obama Administration is trying to promote food stamps to illegal immigrants.”

To quote Al Gore: “Sigh.” Undocumented immigrants have never been eligible for food stamps. People who have immigrated legally make up less than 4% of food stamp users.

Right-wing Obama-haters and fear mongers have this one so wrong that it’s almost comic. They are referring to a program that only provides information, not food stamps. It provides outreach information on benefits that are already available to people who’ve been in the country legally for five years. If people are eligible for a program, they should be able to access it.

The funny part is that the program they’re ranting about was started under…wait for it…President George W. Bush.

BS statement #7:  “Illegal immigrants are criminals and commit more violent crimes than US citizens.”

Let’s review: Immigrants have the lowest crime rates of any demographic group, and compared to people born in the U.S., immigrants are less likely to end up in prison — a fact that even anti-immigrant groups have acknowledged.

Many law enforcement officials say cooperation from our immigrant communities helps keep our neighborhoods safer — and that anti-immigrant state laws actually do the opposite by breeding suspicion and fear among members of the community who’ve done nothing wrong.

Let me know if the facts work. And don’t bullshit me.