10 The Danger of Devaluing Immigrants immigrants contributed $182.4 billion to the Medicare Trust in excess of what the Trust actually expended on the care of immigrants. Myth 2: Immigrants are a threat to U.S. national security. Negative, populist, and nationalist political rhetoric often paints immi- grants as a threat to national security. Those who perpetuate such discourse argue that the war on terrorism can be won through immigration restric- tions. Yet, since 9/11, no security authority has ever asserted that these most- infamous terrorist attacks or any other terrorist attacks could have been thwarted with more restrictive immigration policy. Myth 3: Immigrants contribute to higher crime rates in the United States. While we often associate immigrants with crime, research indicates that crime rates are the lowest in states with the highest immigration growth rates. The data on incarceration in the United States show that incarceration rates among native-born Americans are four times higher than that of immigrants. Myth 4: Immigrants do not learn English and do not assimilate into the U.S. economy and society. The myth that immigrants do not want to learn the English language and do not assimilate into our economy and society has no basis in reality. The non-English-speaking immigrants today learn English at the same rate as the Germans, Italians, and Eastern Europeans who migrated to the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries. While first-generation immigrants may not speak the language fluently, 91 percent of the second generation, or children of first-generation parents, are fluent. These persistent myths aside, statistics from New American Economy show that the majority of the U.S. population holds positive views toward immigrants and appreciates their contribution to our economy and our soci- ety. Still, roughly 23 percent of the population disagrees with that assess- ment. That segment of our population also plays a role in our bimodal response to immigrants and immigration. The people making up this 23 percent tend to be older, white, and traditionally Republican and live in more rural settings. In general, native-born Americans holding more favorable atti- tudes toward immigrants tend to be younger and Democratic and live in larger metropolitan areas. Fear of the immigrant among this 23 percent, though often articulated in the economic myths—for example, that immigrants are a drain on our economy, take our jobs, or take advantage of our social welfare system—nonetheless appears to be based on an underlying concern that American society is mor- phing into a different environment altogether than the one that these pre- dominantly older native-born Americans have known. Statements that immigrants refuse to learn the English language and refuse to assimilate into our society reinforce that concern. We can surmise that the reason for this negative attitude may very well be the rapid change in the demographic makeup of our immigrants and our society at large. Consider that in 1960,
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