‘They Take Our Jobs!’ And 20 Other Myths about Immigration, by Aviva Chomksy (Beacon Press, 2007, 978-0807041567, paperback $11.20).
Professor Chomsky, of the History Department at Salem State College, published not too long ago this book about immigrants and immigration to the United States. The book is an attempt to dispel some common ideas among Americans about this topic which Chomsky argues are myths.
Some people think that these ideas are widespread because of the existence of an anti-immigrant sentiment among a sector of the native US population, which may be based at best on reasonable misconceptions. The danger lies in that these ideas may be exploited by some in our society for political gain.
The book came out when the topic was hot in the middle of the last presidential election. The topic seems to have died down since then but you can be sure that it will be coming back to the fore soon, since it was never resolved, perhaps as soon as the health care problem is given some sort of a solution in the coming months.
Since you may have missed the book when it came out, I would like to suggest it as a good introduction to the topic of immigration, for it shows views that may be at odds with those you have heard elsewhere. If that is the case, hearing the other side of the coin will help you make a more informed decision. If you happen to agree with Dr. Chomsky from the start, her arguments will help you when discussing the topic with others who don’t agree with you.
There is probably no better introduction to the book and the myths that it covers than a listing of the chapter headings, listing the myths themselves. I suggest that you check how many of these statements you agree are myths, how many you don’t, and how many you are not sure. At any rate, it does make for a very interesting read, which will make you think about your preconceptions, and very likely will change how you feel about immigration and immigrants in one way or another.
The chapter titles are as follows:
Part I: IMMIGRANTS AND THE ECONOMY
Myth 1. Immigrants take American jobs
Myth 2. Immigrants compete with low-skilled workers and drive down wages
Myth 3. Unions oppose immigration because it harms the working class
Myth 4. Immigrants don’t pay taxes
Myth 5. Immigrants are a drain on the economy
Myth 6. Immigrants send most of what they earn out of the country in the form of remittances
Part II: IMMIGRANTS AND THE LAW
Myth 7. The rules apply to everyone, so new immigrants need to follow them just as immigrants in the past did
Myth 8. The country is being overrun by illegal immigrants
Myth 9. The United States has a generous refugee policy
Part III: IMMIGRATION AND RACE
Myth 10. The United States is a melting pot that has always welcomed immigrants from all over the world
Myth 11. Since we are all the descendants of immigrants here, we all start on equal footing
Myth 12. Today’s immigrants threaten the national culture because they are not assimilating
Myth 13. Today’s immigrants are not learning English, and bilingual education just adds to the problem
Part IV: HOW HAVE U.S. POLICIES CREATED IMMIGRATION?
Myth 14. Immigrants only come here because they want to enjoy our higher standard of living. Case Study: The Philippines
Part V: THE DEBATE AT THE TURN OF THE MILLENNIUM
Myth 15. The American public opposes immigration, and the debate in Congress reflects that
Myth 16. The overwhelming victory of Proposition 187 in California shows that the public opposes immigration
Myth 17. Immigration is a problem
Myth 18. Countries need to control who goes in and out
Myth 19. We need to protect our borders to prevent criminals and terrorists from entering the country
Myth 20. If people break our laws by immigrating illegally, they are criminals and should be deported
Myth 21. The problems this book raises are so huge that there’s nothing we can do about them