While Halloween comes around only once a year, Republicans can’t help but tell terrifying stories about scary brown people all year long. Of course, these horror stories are complete lies, yet we still see and hear them in campaign speeches, tweets, and Congressional hearings. Let’s debunk five of the worst lies about immigrants.
- The lie: spooky immigrants are coming to commit evil crimes.
The truth: numerous studies have found that immigrants are less likely than U.S.-born Americans to commit crime. Nor has a larger number of immigrants been associated with higher rates of crime. “Immigrant populations in the United States have been growing fast for decades now,” The New York Times and The Marshall Project reported in 2018. “Crime in the same period, however, has moved in the opposite direction, with the national rate of violent crime today well below what it was in 1980.” Trump kicked off his first campaign in 2015 by descending his golden escalator and trashing immigrants as criminals and “rapists,” a theme he’s kept up since in order to try to frighten Americans. But you know what really is scary? 91 felony indictments.
- The lie: immigrants (they might be zombies!) are taking your jobs (and your brains).
The truth: the claim that immigrants are trying to replace U.S.-born workers is a common tactic used by opponents of immigration reform. Immigration reform – such as the bill passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013 – would actually lead to better job opportunities and higher wages for all workers. “In fact, research shows that within 10 years of providing legal status to undocumented immigrants, the cumulative increase in income of all Americans would be $470 billion,” the Center for American Progress said. The nation is further facing a critical labor shortage that immigrant workers could help solve. The construction industry, for example, is facing a record 650,000 openings, CNBC reported. Not only could immigrants fill these critical roles, it would be a massive boon to our economy.
- The lie: vampire immigrants are sucking the nation dry.
The truth: undocumented immigrants are ineligible for most federal benefits despite paying billions of dollars in taxes every single year. “Nearly $12 billion in local and state taxes every year, to be exact. “Contributions range from almost $2.2 million in Montana with an estimated undocumented population of 4,000 to more than $3.1 billion in California, home to more than 3 million undocumented immigrants,” the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said in 2017. Undocumented immigrants have also helped keep Social Security alive despite not being able to access it due to their immigration status, contributing $13 billion in one year alone. Immigrants regardless of their legal status are an economic powerhouse, paying $405.4 billion in taxes in 2017 and deploying $1.1 trillion in spending power.
- The lie: fentanyl-pushing immigrants are drugging your kid’s Halloween candy.
The truth: the claim that the fentanyl crisis and immigration are related is one of the most cynical lies spread by Republicans. Yes, this is a complex and multifaceted issue, but one that has absolutely nothing to do with immigrants. The vast majority of fentanyl is seized at ports of entry in commercial trucks and passenger cars, not in the backpacks of migrants crossing on foot and looking to present themselves to Border Patrol agents in order to apply for asylum. The traffickers are also U.S. citizens and permanent residents, not asylum-seekers. The frightening reality is that when elected officials and candidates say that American kids are dying and that it’s the fault of non-white migrants, they are using the fentanyl issue to further gin up political violence.
- The lie: body-snatching immigrants are coming to replace you.
The truth: this white nationalist conspiracy theory that non-white migrants are replacing white people is a fringe lie that has now gone mainstream in the GOP. “This is the plan of our friends on this side — to turn all the illegals into voters,” Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson said at a congressional hearing in May 2022, gesturing at Democrats. “That’s why the border’s open.” Rather than rebuking this conspiratorial rhetoric, House Republicans recently selected Johnson as their new Speaker. Not only are replacement and invasion conspiracy theories not based in any reality whatsoever, they are lies that have come with a tragic body count, from Charlottesville in 2017, to Buffalo in 2022. Yet Johnson received the unanimous approval of the GOP caucus during this month’s speakership race.
We should not fear immigrants, or the vulnerable families arriving to the southern border in search of safety and hope, but instead the extremist politics that are ascendant inside the GOP and now at the top levels of government. Americans face a greater lethal threat from domestic terrorists, many of them animated by xenophobia than from immigrants themselves. But that’s the one scary story that Republicans don’t want to tell.