The Five Biggest Immigration Myths According to Expert Steven Camarota

Published on November 27th, 2015

Steven Camarota, Ph.D., is one of America’s foremost experts on immigration. He is the Director of Research at the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). CIS is a Washington, DC-based think tank that examines the impacts of legal and illegal immigration on the United States.
In recent years, Dr. Camarota has testified before Congress more than any other nongovernmental authority on the economic and fiscal impacts of immigration. His research has been featured on the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today, among other publications. His scholarly papers have been published in journals such as Public Interest and Social Science Quarterly.

Dr. Steven Camarota, Ph.D.
Center for Immigration Studies

Camarota’s analysis and commentary are heard frequently on radio and television, including CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, NBC Nightly News, ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, National Public Radio and the NewsHour on PBS.

Camarota recently listed what he calls the “five biggest immigration myths.” Mass immigration apologists, and supporters of bogus “comprehensive immigration reform,” routinely invoke these myths as if they were self-evident, when in fact they are no more real than the tooth fairy.

1. Myth: Immigration can fix an aging society.

Fact: Immigration makes the population much bigger, but not much younger.

myth no. 1
Figure 1. Working-age (16 to 65) share of the U.S. population, 2010 to 2050.
Source: Steven Camarota, 2012. “Projecting Immigration’s Impact on the Size and
Age Structure of the 21st Century American Population,” Center for Immigration Studies.

2. Myth: Immigrants are uniquely entrepreneurial.The graph shows that even eliminating immigration entirely would only reduce the working-age share of the population (those between 16 and 65 years of age) by a mere 1 percent between 2010 and 2050. The upshot is that maintaining high immigration levels will continue pumping our population to unsustainable levels, but will neither prevent America from aging (like every other nation on the planet), nor rescue Social Security.

Fact: Immigrants differ little from natives in their entrepreneurship.

Myth no. 2
Figure 2. No real difference in entrepreneurship between immigrants and natives.
Source: Public use file of the 2015 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the
Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. Figures are for employed persons 25 and older.

3. Myth: America needs immigration because of a worker shortage.Pro-mass-immigration politicians love to regale Americans with the myth of immigrant entrepreneurship, that is, that immigrants enrich the U.S. both economically and morally by their greater willingness to take risks in starting and running businesses. The often unspoken attitude is that the immigrant work ethic exceeds that of welfare state-coddled American slackers. The bar chart shows that there is actually little difference in the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants and natives

Fact: The number of unemployed, working-age Americans is at or near record levels.

Camarota adduces several persuasive lines of evidence that give the lie to the pernicious “worker shortage” myth propagated by The Wall Street Journal, National Association of Manufacturers, the IT industry and others with a vested interest in perpetually swelling the ranks of underpaid, docile laborers.

  • 48.1 million natives age18-65 are out of work.

  • 6.7 million native teens age 16-17 are not working.

  • 10.8 million immigrants age 16-65 are not working.

  • 65.5 million age 16-65 in total are not working in 2015.

  • 47.3 million age 16-65 in total were not working in 2000.

  • 18.2 million increase between 2000 and 2015 in persons not working.

Myth no. 3
Figure 3. Percentages of working natives 18-65 are in long-term decline
Source: Public use file of the Current Population Survey from the
second quarter of 2000 and 2015.

According to the law of supply and demand that everyone who takes Economics 101 quickly learns (or they flunk Econ 101), a shortage of a commodity drives up the price for it. In other words, if there were truly a labor shortage, this would be reflected in rising wages and salaries. Figure 4 shows that from 2000 to 2012, this hasn’t been the case at all in the United States.Figure 3 shows that at all levels of educational attainment, the percentages of native-born Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 who are working have declined significantly from the year 2000 to the present. The decline is especially marked among those working-age Americans with only or without a high school diploma. The research of Cuban-born Harvard economist George Borjas has proved that working-class Americans – not elites – are the big losers from our feckless, near-open borders immigration policy.

figure 4
Figure 4. Wages reveal no evidence of U.S. labor shortage from 2000 to 2012.
Source: “A Decade of Flat Wages: The Key Barrier to Shared Prosperity
and a Rising Middle Class,” 2013 Economic Policy Institute.

Fact: Immigrant-headed households have substantially higher welfare use.4. Myth: Immigrants aren’t allowed to get welfare.

figure 5
Figure 5. Comparison of welfare use between natives and immigrants.
Source: Steven Camarota 2015, “Welfare Use by Immigrant and Native Households
An Analysis of Medicaid, Cash, Food, and Housing Programs,”
Center for Immigration Studies.

5. Myth: Immigrants are natural conservatives.Camarota reports that welfare use is high both for new immigrants and well-established ones. Even among households headed by immigrants who have been settled in the U.S. for more than two decades, almost half (48 percent) still access some form of welfare.

Fact: The two largest groups of immigrants – Latinos and Asians – are generally liberal.

figure 6
Figure 6. Liberal attitudes of Hispanics and Asians on capitalism and
size of government.

Source: Pew Research Center


Camarota points out that, across a range of issues, immigrants have more liberal opinions than the general public: the environment, helping the poor, Obamacare and guns, among others. Hispanics and Asians favor Democrats over Republicans by a two to one margin because their countries or origin tend to have more activist or left-leaning governments, because they settle in more liberal urban areas, because of self-interest (e.g., benefitting from affirmative action and welfare programs, which are considered “liberal”) and because of an attraction to the identity and grievance-based politics pushed since the 1960s in our universities and by leftist foundations such as the Ford Foundation.The supposedly conservative politics of most immigrants is another fantasy indulged in by pro-mass-immigration, pro-amnesty Republicans like the Bush brothers (President George W. and Governor Jeb), Bush advisor Karl Rove, Senator Marco Rubio and the late Rep. Jack Kemp. It is a myth that self-serving Democrats are only too happy to encourage. The fact that Democratic elites correctly see their party (if not their rank-and-file) as the beneficiaries of mass immigration goes a long way to account for their fierce support of it and unhinged attacks on mass immigration’s critics.

Dr. Camarota left off his list perhaps the biggest myth of all, that we are a “nation of immigrants.” The clear implication of this cliché is that it would be pure hypocrisy for any son or daughter of such a nation to advocate restrictions on whom and how many America allows to pass through the “golden door.”

Yet if there were no restrictions at all – if the golden door was opened wide so that any and all could stroll through of their own volition – America would soon cease even to be a nation. And for some on the Left, and some ethnic zealots, that would be just fine.

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