Immigration Myths and Misconceptions
August 6, 2023
In the present day, there is significant anti-immigration rhetoric. This can be seen when looking at the statements made by political actors, particularly those associated with populism and the radical right. For example, former president Donald Trump stated: “When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best...They’re bringing drugs; They’re bringing crime; They’re rapists” (Luqman, 2018, p.14). The media also plays into this anti-immigration rhetoric through platforms such as the Tucker Carlson Tonight Show. On July 19th, 2022 Carlson discussed the Democratic and Republican parties' stances on immigration and claimed that "both parties are finding new ways to give American jobs to foreign-born applicants" (Carlson, 2022, 16:10).
More opportunities to engage with anti-immigration discourse have emerged due to advances in technology and the growth of social media. However, just because more information has become available, does not mean that all of it is valid and reliable. Much of the anti-immigration discourse seen today is built upon myths and misconceptions. In this column, I will outline the reality behind the statements made by Trump and Carlson to show that the portrayals of immigrants as crime-causing, job-stealing individuals have no basis in reality.
Chouhy & Madero-Hernandez (2019) discuss the relationship between crime and immigration. At the macro level, they find that immigrant communities do not typically exhibit higher crime rates. They also find that "sanctuary cities" (areas where the participation of local police in the enforcement of immigration violations is restricted) do not foster crime. When looking at the micro level, they uncover that immigrants engage in fewer criminal acts than the native-born population, which is true for both documented and undocumented immigrants. These findings challenge the claim made by former president Trump, as his statement implied the majority of immigrants coming from Mexico are criminals. Although his strategic use of rhetoric may make these statements appear convincing, it is clear that they are built upon myths and misconceptions.
Oliver (2016) states that immigration opponents often claim immigrants are stealing jobs from the native population. Despite this, many immigrants come to the U.S. to start businesses that open up new employment opportunities. Alongside this, each immigrant that arrives in the U.S. is also a consumer and thus can help support American businesses and stimulate the U.S. economy. Griswold (2018) supports these claims by outlining how immigrants are more likely to start up a business than native-born Americans. For example, among start-up companies valued at more than $1 billion in 2016, half were founded by immigrants. They also state how the relationship between American workers and immigrants is complementary rather than competitive when it comes to jobs because, as immigrants supply labor, they also raise demand for housing and other goods and services, thus creating employment opportunities for native-born workers. These findings challenge the claims Tucker Carlson made on his show since they indicate immigration poses no threat to Americans when it comes to employment opportunities. Although the claim Carlson makes appears convincing at first glance, it is important to realize that it is built upon a myth that has no basis in reality.
Even though actors in politics and the media may seem trustworthy and make statements about immigration in convincing ways, my article has demonstrated how much of what they say is blatantly false. With this in mind, it is important that we approach statements about immigration with caution and always look to valid and reliable data. In doing this, we reduce the risk of falling prey to common myths and misconceptions that stem from rhetorical strategies and create a society that is more accepting and supportive of immigrants.
Carlson, T. (2022, July 19). Tucker Carlson: The great replacement is an electoral strategy. Fox News.https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/tucker-carlson-great-replacement-electoral-strategy
Chouhy, C., & Madero-Hernandez, A. (2019). “Murderers, rapists, and bad hombres”: Deconstructing the immigration-crime myths. Victims & Offenders, 14(8), 1010-1039. https://doi.org/10.1080/15564886.2019.1671283
Griswold, D. (2018). The Benefits of Immigration: Addressing Key Myths. Mercatus Center-George Mason University. file:///Users/gracebrock/Downloads/griswold_-_policy_brief_-_myths_of_immigration_- _v1%20(1).pdf
Luqman, M. (2018). The Trump effect: Impacts of political rhetoric on minorities and America’s image (Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University).
Oliver, J. R. (2016). IMMIGRATION MYTHS: A SYNTHESIS OF LITERATURE. Jeffrey R. Oliver.https://jeffoliverblog.wordpress.com/writing-samples/immigration-myths-a-synthe sis-of-literature/