This is part two of a five part series on countering myths about undocumented immigrants. For other posts in this series, select from the following: part one (Il/legal). Check back for part three (Workplace Abuses); part four (Deportation); and part five (Telling Our Own Story).
Some say immigrants bring disease. This accusation has been leveled at immigrants for over a century:
“The Irish were charged with bringing cholera to the United States in 1832. Later the Italians were stigmatized for polio. Tuberculosis was called the ‘Jewish disease.’ . . . . Asians were portrayed as feeble and infested with hookworm, Mexicans as lousy, and eastern European Jews as vulnerable to trachoma, tuberculosis, and—a favorite ‘wastebasket’ diagnosis of nativists in the early 1900s—‘poor physique.’” Source.
The USA seems to have survived many waves of immigration despite these fears – our current low standing on world health scores is due entirely to crummy policy. The news media haven’t yet blamed our epidemic of prescription drug abuse on immigrants, but no doubt some blogger somewhere is making that claim.
This is part one of a five part series on countering myths about undocumented immigrants. Stay tuned for upcoming posts: part two (Contagion); part three (Workplace Abuses); part four (Deportation); and part five (Telling Our Own Story).
Lots of people complain that immigrants who come here without visas or who overstay their visas are breaking the law and should be punished. Folks are rightly concerned when we think the system is rigged, when it seems some people can scoff at the rules while the rest of us have to abide by them. With regard to immigrants, the common assumption is that there is a clear legal path to immigration and that folks should just “get in line” and “wait their turn.” However, this assumption overlooks several important facts.
Common Myths about Immigrants and Immigration in Tennessee
Myth #1: Undocumented immigrants are criminals.
In fact, unlawful presence in the United States is a civil violation of federal law, not a crime. Therefore, undocumented immigration status does not make someone a criminal. While some public figures claim that immigrants are filling our jails, many of those same individuals support legislation that turns everyday activities into crimes—like driving to work or renting an apartment. According to U.S. Census data, immigrants have the lowest rates of imprisonment for criminal convictions in American society (Migration Policy Institute). The incarceration rate of the US born (3.51) is four times the rate of the foreign-born (.086). Between 1990 and 2004, the number of foreign-born in Tennessee increased by 267%; but in the last ten years, the overall crime rate has actually decreased, and the rate of violent crime decreased by more than 5% (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation).