Student Voices
Nov. 22 2016

1. Illegal immigrants are costing taxpayers 113 billion dollars

This claim was often cited by the Trump campaign to support its anti-immigration stance. The number originates from a study presented by the Federation for American Immigration Reform, an anti-immigration group (biased, much?). That 113 billion dollar estimate was derived from an overestimation of the number of illegal immigrants in the country when compared to estimates by Homeland Security, and also included costs to private entities, like private hospitals, not funded by government. Immigrants do use government services, but these costs are offset by the taxes they pay, either because their wages are linked to a fake social security number and automatically collected by the IRS, or because having a history of paying taxes through an Individual Tax Identification Number (which illegal immigrants can obtain) is crucial for immigrants hoping to one day get legal status.

2. Muslims will institute Sharia law

Muslims have been particularly targeted by Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric. This claim plays into many Americans’ fears that allowing entry to Muslim immigrants is inviting in terrorists and changing the very fabric of American society through the institution of Sharia law. Trump himself made the claim that some areas of the US are already under Sharia law. Dearborn, Michigan, a city with a large Muslim population, is often pointed to as one of these areas; city officials there have thoroughly debunked the claim that their city is governed by Sharia law. What can happen is that any religious group (including Christians and Jews), can call for religious tribunals. These rulings, however, cannot supersede US laws.  

3. Illegal immigrants are taking American jobs, and deporting them will be good for our economy

Deporting illegal immigrants has been a cornerstone of the Trump campaign. The number of illegal immigrants Trump hopes to deport is in constant flux, but his most recent figures hover around 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants. In practice, what does this mean, though? To deport millions of illegal immigrants requires a colossal increase in federal agents to find and apprehend illegal immigrants, it requires detaining them in detention facilities, moving them through the court system, and finally transporting them back to their home countries, all of which costs a lot. Not to mention, illegal immigrants are taxpayers, consumers, and entrepreneurs. Deporting them will actually lead to an estimated 6.4 percent decrease in the US labor force, and a 5.7 percent decline in GDP. Besides–and this is no small point–illegal immigrants are people too, many of whom came to America seeking a better life, just like many of our ancestors. 

Stephanie Küng is a second-year MPH candidate in Population & Family Health. Prior to coming to Columbia, she worked for many years in sexual and reproductive rights, education, and community organizing and counseling.

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