Myths and Realities about Immigrants


Immigration issues are top and center in the current America election cycle. Talk to anyone here and they have opinions about immigration or the crisis at the border.

A Recent PBS poll showed immigration was the number one issue in the current political races for the US Senate, House of Representatives, and Presidency. This is particularly true in a border state like Arizona where we have been living. Everyone is willing to opine about immigration even people like me who know little about it. I have been trying to learn more while I have been here.

Many of the people I have talked to here in Arizona think refugees get all kinds of lavish benefits far beyond anything American citizens get. For example, I was told by a good friend here that they are entitled to a car!  My research indicates that is not true. Added to that, many Americans think refugee claimants are taking jobs away from Americans so they harm the poor in America.

Moreover,  many of Americans are convinced that the immigrants are responsible for a “crime wave’ in the country. Remember Trump called Immigrants rapists and murderers on the first day of his campaign in 2015! That continues to be Trump’s view and we must also remember that to many people—I call them Trumpsters—whatever Trump says on the issue is “gospel” truth whether there is any evidence to support them or not.  I choose that word advisedly because they treat him like a religious leader. Many of them nearly worship Trump. Trump himself has likened himself to God.

I want to consider some of these claims. I may make mistakes in this quest. If so, I urge my readers to correct me.

One of the economists I like to read is Paul Krugman who is Princeton professor of Economics as well as a New York Times columnist and winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2008. I confess he has a definite left-wing slant. I like him because he writes clearly on economics so a peasant like me can understand much of what he says.

First, he begins with the fairly obvious proposition that almost all modern nations will not tolerate open borders, and contrary to what Republicans in the US say, Democrats don’t advocate for open borders.

Very few people argue in favor of allowing anyone to choose to live in whatever country he or she wants to live. I have never met anyone who says that. As Krugman said, “The good news is that America doesn’t have open borders, and there is no significant faction in our politics saying we should. In fact, immigrating to the United States legally is fairly difficult.”

 Yet, Krugman admits that there is also bad news. That is that America has a very hard time enforcing its current rules.  The main problem though is that the authorities have inadequate resources to deal with the problem. Republicans in particular love to complain, and campaign on the “disaster at the border,” but they don’t want to pay the money to fix the problem however.


The most recent example of this reluctance was where the American House of Representatives rejected without even voting on it, the recent bill proposed by a group of non-partisans in the Senate. This group of non-partisans got the Democrats to agree to surprising compromises because they realized the American public was blaming them for the “disaster” at the southern border. That was why Trump instructed his sycophants in the House to reject the proposal which offered the toughest immigration laws in a generation! It also would provide sufficient funds to deal with the problem. At least more than has been allocated in the past. As Krugman said,

The reason they don’t have those resources is that many Republicans in Congress, while fulminating about a border crisis, appear determined to deny the needed funding. Their position is rooted in extraordinary political cynicism, and they aren’t even trying to hide it: Donald Trump has intervened with Republicans to block any immigration deal because he believes that chaos at the border will help his election prospects.


That is one of the problems, the Republicans want to rail against the catastrophe at the border but make no proposal to deal with it, reject advancing more money as the non-partisans agree. Instead, they want to rail against the problems because they know their supporters will jump to scapegoating the Democrats for everything that is wrong at the border.

I intend to examine in particular the economic realities at the border, which are very different from the economic myths.

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