Today in a meeting I had at the university I realized that many people still have lots of mis-information about immigrants and the U.S. immigration process. Here are a few bits of information that I hope can correct the misinformation spread by Fox, CNN, and other news outlets that irresponsibly send out information that makes the lives of undocumented immigrants much more difficult.
1. The children of immigrants learn English quickly. Almost always (unless there is a serious physical or mental disability) they are fluent by third grade. It doesn't take 2 generations for the children of immigrants to become English speaking.
2. Undocumented immigrants pay taxes - through the rent they pay - the landlord charges rent that will cover real estate taxes. In states like Texas that have a sales tax - everybody pays tax when they make a purchase - immigrant or not. Plus, most undocumented immigrants receive paychecks and have federal with-holding taken out. Many lose thousands to the Social Security fund that they will never be able to withdraw - even when they reach retirement age.
3. Young people who are recent immigrants make great students - the problem usually arises a generation or two later when the kids have become embedded into American culture and bad neighborhood schools - and face a deadening institutional racism.
4. Letting DREAMers go to college and work as professionals when they graduate will actually add to our economy. They will pay much more in taxes and will contribute to our society in many ways as teachers, health care providers, law enforcement officers, attorneys, and many other professions. They will pay more in taxes which will make more services available to native born U.S. citizens.
5. Undocumented immigrants (especially from Mexico) have low levels of education because the educational systems in their home countries are seriously lacking. It is almost impossible in most parts of Mexico for a child to get past the 6th grade.
6. Adult immigrants from Mexico and other Latin American countries do not learn English quickly because they are not able to take language classes. Most have to work several jobs which makes it impossible to go to night class. Most classes charge tuition, which they cannot afford. Many women do not take classes because they are not encouraged or allowed by their husbands.
As an cultural anthropologist I have done research on U.S. immigration policy and worked with undocumented college students and other immigrants from Latin America. I also conducted research and wrote a book on northern Mexico. I lived in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon in 1998-1999.