President Trump has made up three tall tales to criminalize, criticize and reject immigrants in the United States. These stories are full of lies, but he’s repeated them so often that many Americans have started to believe them.
So let’s refute all three, one by one.
1. Undocumented immigrants are criminals.
This is Trump’s core story. When he launched his presidential bid in June 2015, he famously said that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are “bringing drugs; they’re bringing crime; they’re rapists.” And during his first speech before Congress recently, he again likened immigrants to “gang members, drug dealers and criminals.”
Here’s the truth about undocumented immigrants in the U.S.: A huge majority, 97% in fact, are good people. That number comes from a Migration Policy Institute study, which found that less than 3% of undocumented immigrants have committed a felony. It also found that American-born residents are twice as likely to commit a felony as immigrants are.
Crime statistics also demonstrate a correlation between having more undocumented immigrants and lower crime rates at the national level. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. tripled, from 3.5 million to 11.2 million. During that time, violent crime in America dropped by 48%, according to data from the FBI. Despite these facts, Trump insists on vilifying immigrants, and continues to push his “bad hombres” myth.
2. Immigrants are costly for the United States.
Another lie—and one that’s easy to refute by doing the math. Yes, it’s true that undocumented immigrants benefit from some social services and that their children get free public education all the way through high school. That costs money — but immigrants also contribute by paying taxes and creating jobs. The greatest irony is that undocumented workers also contribute part of their earnings to Social Security and Medicare, services from which they will never benefit.
In fact, immigrants contribute more than $2 billion to the economy every year, and produced some $54 billion dollars in net gain from 1994 through 2013, according to a study by the National Academy of Sciences. Trump blames immigrants for being a burden on the country, but they give back much more than they take.
3. Immigrants steal jobs from Americans.
The president likes to blame undocumented immigrants for the economic woes of workers in the United States. But again, he’s wrong. Immigrants almost never compete for the same jobs as American-born residents.
They usually do the jobs nobody else wants to do — especially in the agriculture and services sectors. I dare any American to try doing the harsh work that undocumented residents do in the farm fields of Florida or California, at restaurants in New York or Chicago, or at the hotels in any other city in the country. They work hard, their pay tends to be low and they benefit from very few labor protections. Immigrants complement the work of Americans; they’re not directly competing with them.
For years, protest groups have called for a “day without immigrants” — and last month, local actions were taken in various cities. But such a nationwide work stoppage has never happened. If it did, the United States would be paralyzed.
Indeed, Trump lies a lot—and about more than just these three issues. For instance, he lied for years about President Obama not being born in the United States. He lied when he said that 3 million undocumented immigrants voted in the last election, and blamed them for his losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. And just a few days ago, he lied that Obama ordered a wiretap on him during the presidential campaign (Trump has produced no evidence). These claims are just as false as his lies about immigration.
So no, Mr. Trump, immigrants aren’t criminals, they’re not an economic burden on the United States, and they don’t steal jobs from Americans. Those are just myths — and nobody should believe them.
Jorge Ramos, an Emmy Award-winning journalist, is a news anchor on Univision and the host of “Show Me Something” on Fusion. Originally from Mexico and now based in Florida, Ramos is the author of several best-selling books. His latest is “Take a Stand: Lessons From Rebels.”