Using Real Data to Push a False Narrative on Immigration



How many times are we told that immigrants work harder than Americans? Or that more immigration is needed to extend the lifespan of Social Security? Mass immigration appears to be the solution to all of the United States’ financial woes. At least, that seems to be the message frequently pushed by the cheap-labor lobby and parroted by the mainstream media.

One organization that pushes this narrative is the New American Economy (NAE), which claims to “use powerful research to… tell a story of immigration that is about entrepreneurship, out-innovating our global competitors, and building prosperity in communities large and small across the country.” Essentially, the organization is very open about the fact that they want to portray immigrants as far more valuable than native-born American citizens. They primarily “prove” this by producing reports that tout the perceived benefits that immigrants provide to state and local economies.

In one of their most recent reports focusing on the Portland, Maine, metro area, the NAE claimed, based on data from the American Community Survey (ACS), that foreign-born residents made up 5.1 percent of the local workforce, and contributed $1.2 billion to the local GDP in 2016. Furthermore, the report touts the $252 million that immigrants paid in federal and state taxes. On the surface, that sounds quite impressive, but the report fails to provide critical context. Below are some very important data points from both the ACS and Bureau of Economic Analysis that the NAE conveniently left out of their report:

  • Native-born Americans contribute approximately $30.8 billion of the area’s total $32 billion GDP. So while immigrants make up more than 5 percent of the local workforce, they only contribute roughly 3.8 percent of the GDP.
  • Native-born Americans contribute an average of $61,000 annually to the Portland, Maine, GDP, compared to only about $49,425 for a foreign-born worker. This means immigrants contribute approximately $10,500 less, on average, than native-born Americans.
  • The median household income for refugees is $21,400, less than half the city-wide average. Refugees represent a sizeable portion – 19 percent – of the immigrant population in the area.
  • Foreign-born households are 20 percent less likely than native-born households to own a home.
  • Foreign-born households utilize welfare programs at a much higher rate than native-born households. The NAE report fails to take this into consideration when calculating how much immigrants contribute in taxes. In many cases, immigrant households consume far more in benefits than they ultimately pay in taxes.

Once all of the critical data points are included, we reach a much different conclusion. While immigrants may indeed contribute roughly $1.2 billion to the Portland, Maine, area economy, that is actually a concerningly small amount for the large number of foreign-born residents that reside in the area. On average, they contribute far less than native-born Americans. So if the proportion of immigrants in the area were to continue increasing, the per-capita GDP would actually decrease.

So while the NAE may be citing valid statistics, they create a false narrative by presenting only the data that furthers their open-borders agenda. This is an unethical practice known as the “fallacy of incomplete evidence,” or “cherry picking”: presenting only information that seems to prove your point, while leaving out important relevant data that may contradict that position.

The mass immigration lobby has little interest in presenting facts in a truthful context. This report by the NAE is a clear demonstration of that. But when these organizations misrepresent the truth in pursuit of importing a cheap labor force, it’s the American worker that ultimately pays the price.

About Author

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Spencer joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2015. He conducts research, and writes content for FAIR’s publications and website. He brings previous experience in state politics, gubernatorial and district campaigns, and D.C. political non-profits. Spencer holds a B.A. in Government from the University of Texas at Austin.

5 Comments

  1. avatar

    Illegal immigration must stop as the US cannot be expected to support these lazy, foul. do-nothing aliens from south of the border. No more free handouts for these illegal aliens who offer nothing positive for our country.

  2. avatar

    The numbers of these immigrants and illegals is estimated to be way too low.

    A large percentage of Americans have no idea of the problems to the cities, etc. unless they live near a Sanctuary City.

    I lived outside of Chicago where one church has a whole new congregation of “religious workers”. They were Chinese. They bought big four bedroom homes in our subdivision. Religious organizations are abusing our immigration laws big time.

  3. avatar

    “But they pay taxes”. So does a 12 year old who buys a comic book.

    “But we will need them for a stable workforce”. Every day another job is lost because of automation. Stores of all kinds and fast food restaurants now have self order/self pay kiosks that eliminate cashier jobs. Amazon is planning on robot workers to fill orders. {While Jeff Bezos says we need even more immigration.}

    “They will save Social Security”. The youngest boomers, born in 1964, are still only 55, and most say they will need or want to work past retirement age. If we should need more immigrants 10 years from now, we can address it then. It’s not like we need to “stock up” now.

    “We need to put illegals on a path to citizenship so they can fully contribute”. But they are far more likely to be a drain. Low income, low paid, many will pay zero in income taxes, but will be fully eligible for thousands of direct cash dollars under the earned income provisions.

    “But your great grandparents”. But when they came it was pay for yourself, not jump on the government gravy train, including housing, food stamps and medical care.

    • avatar

      Our grandparents had to have their own money or job waiting, be healthy, have a sponsor or have a good trade. We need a type of Ellis Island once again.