The issue of illegal immigration in the U.S. has sparked some spirited debate and has led to more than a few misrepresentations of the role played by both legal and illegal immigrants in the American economic structure. Immigration issues are not singular to the U.S. In the European Union, the free travel of workers from one country to another has led to increased unemployment for some residents of more prosperous countries; the influx of foreign individuals willing to work for the minimum wage has priced many unskilled workers out of the market in countries like England, Germany and France. Similar situations have been claimed in the U.S.; however, the evidence for these claims on American soil has not been firmly established. The well-documented propensity of U.S. politicians and pundits to blame illegal immigrants for all possible woes facing the country, however, does not depend on valid evidence for their claims.
Immigrants Caused the Collapse of the Housing Market
Commentator Michelle Malkin used some curious logic to support her claim that Hispanic illegal immigrants were responsible for the crash of the housing bubble:
• Malkin cited statistics that indicated that nearly half of all mortgage loans made to Hispanic borrowers were subprime loans.
• She then stated that about one-fourth of all subprime loans were currently in default.
• Malkin ended by stating that Hispanics make up a large part of the population in areas in which defaulted mortgages were most common.
Malkin’s figures were incorrect. Only about one-fifth of all subprime loans were in default at the time of her statement. Her logic is faulty in other ways as well: She seems to assume that all Hispanics living in the U.S. are here illegally and that they are obviously guilty of default simply because they live in areas where defaults were commonplace. In fact, many legal residents of the U.S. were discriminated against in the mortgage marketplace simply because of their ethnic heritage. Malkin’s claims simply don’t hold water.
Joy Rides for Fun and Profit
Senator John McCain of Arizona also has some odd ideas about illegal immigrants. In 2010, he told conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly that public safety was threatened by “the drivers of cars with illegals in it that are intentionally causing accidents on the freeway.” Senator McCain has yet to explain or provide evidence for his claim or to explain how intentional crashes could benefit illegal immigrants in the state of Arizona. McCain is not alone in blaming immigrants for traffic tie-ups: The American Immigration Control Foundation (AICF) has been credited with running ads that attribute gridlock and slow traffic to the presence of legal and illegal immigrants in the U.S. It should be noted that John Vinson is the president of AICF and is affiliated with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that advocates white nationalism and separatism.
Only Illegal Immigrants Can Prevent Forest Fires
Senator McCain returned to his pattern of unfounded accusations regarding illegal immigrants in 2011, stating, “There is substantial evidence of:
The Drug Problem
Arizona seems to be a hot spot for scapegoating of the illegal immigrant as the source of all known problems in the U.S. Governor Jan Brewer was quoted in 2010 as saying, “We all know that the majority of the people that are coming to Arizona and trespassing are now becoming drug mules.” She persisted in her claims despite a statement to the contrary by T. J. Bonner, a representative of the National Border Patrol Council.
Commentator and unheralded health expert Jack Cafferty of CNN blamed the potential threat of the 2009 swine flu epidemic on illegal immigrants from Mexico. According to Cafferty, individuals illegally crossing the border may have been the source for the infection’s spread to the U.S. from Mexico. Cafferty holds no medical credentials and offered no evidence for his claim.
These examples of scapegoating are only the tip of the iceberg for illegal immigrants in the U.S. While valid concerns about the effects of open borders and increased immigration do exist, the unwarranted defamation of legal and illegal immigrants in the service of a political agenda only serves to cloud the issue. By sticking to the facts and discussing immigration reform honestly and fairly, public officials and news commentators can promote a happier and more prosperous future for the entire country.