What Lots Of People Get WRONG About Migrants

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
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Unless your entire family was native to this country, at some point, someone in your familial line made the trek across land, air, or sea to come here for a better life. Maybe their country of origin was ravaged by war. Maybe they came to go to school or find more lucrative work.

Whatever the case, I doubt you think of your immigrant ancestors as dirty, opportunistic, or disease-ridden. And yet, our current President wants us to think of the current pool of American migrants and immigrants in exactly this way – especially if they happen to have black or brown skin.

From the ridiculous, racist notion of building a wall at the Mexican border, to the appalling, inhumane polices on parent/child separation at the border, our country is in crisis when it comes to immigration. And it’s not because we are being flooded with dirty, disgusting illegal migrants, as our current president would lead you to believe.

No, the crisis is in how we are treating migrants, and the lies being perpetuated about them. Obviously, anyone entering our country should be vetted, and proper measures should be taken to ensure this. But those measures must be humane, and based on just laws, not laws born out of racist rhetoric.

To be perfectly clear: It is completely legal to seek asylum in America. That is exactly what many of the migrants coming here are trying to do. What’s illegal, on the other hand, is to turn away migrants who are seeking asylum.

Part of the reason the president’s policies have gotten the traction they have is because he has successfully convinced a sizeable portion of the population that migrants are a danger to us all. But these are lies – dangerous, hateful, racist lies.

Thankfully, a new report by the University College London-Lancet Commission on Migration and Health is seeking to debunk many of these myths. The commission, which includes 20 experts from 13 countries, spent the past two years compiling and analyzing the data, and what they came up with is illuminating – and so very important for everyone to listen to and understand.

Myth 1: Migrants spread infectious diseases.

The idea that the migrants coming here will spread leprosy, tuberculosis, smallpox or whatever awful disease you can think of is bullshit. Although the commission cited evidence of tuberculosis among immigrants to the U.K. and Norway, the disease was not spread to the local population. What’s more, according to NPR’s coverage of the report, experts from Johns Hopkins University found no evidence of a large-scale problem when it came to infectious disease spread among migrants.

Myth 2: Migrants overwhelm our healthcare system.

Think about it: If you are going to trek all the way to a new country, sometimes in very difficult conditions, you probably have to start off in halfway decent health to do so. The commission found that migrants who come to high-income countries are generally in good overall health, with lower rates of heart disease and cancer.

Furthermore, immigrants make up a sizeable portion of our healthcare workers, and end up benefitting us all in the long-run. “One of the things the report clearly establishes is high-income countries are hugely dependent on migrants from low-income countries for medical care, teaching and caring for grandparents,” said Terry McGovern, one of the commissioners of the report.

Myth 3: Migrants have too many babies.

Migrants are not coming here and then birthing hoards of children. It’s actually the opposite, the report found. Migrants have fewer overall births than the local population of countries they inhabit, roughly 2.1 births per woman.

Myth 4: Migrants are bad for the economy.

Migrants are not going to come here and steal all your money. Again, it’s the opposite: migrants often provide a boost to the economy. A 2016 International Monetary Fund report cited in NPR found that even a 1% increase in the immigrant population can increase the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of a country by over 2%.

Myth 5: Migrants are suddenly flooding countries everywhere.

The report found that the number of migrants all over the world is at a record high. However, the rate of immigration has remained fairly steady over the past 30 years. In 1990, immigrants made up 2.9% of the world’s population, and 3.4% in 2017.

The idea that migrants are trying to gain entry into only the wealthiest countries in the world is a myth as well. Migrants look to immigrate into whatever country they are most able to safely navigate to. “Data for migration tell us that more people from low- and middle-income countries are migrating within their own countries and region than across high-income country borders, even if vocal political rhetoric implies otherwise,” the commissioners wrote.

Myth 6: Migrants commit a disproportionate number of crimes, or they are coming here to commit terrorist acts.

Both of these are categorically untrue, as The Washington Post points out. More than one study has shown that migrants are not more likely commit crimes, including a major longitudinal study that found undocumented immigrants do not increase the rates of violent crimes. As for the terrorism threat, as The Post explains, the majority of immigrants who commit terrorism become radicalized after living in the U.S. — and the vast majority of terrorist acts that have been committed over the past decade have been by American-born terrorists.

“[S]ince 2002, foreign-born terrorists have killed 34 people, while U.S.-born terrorists have killed more than three times that number,” writes The Post.

Let’s stop perpetuating these dangerous myths about migrants – and if we see others doing so, let’s call them out. Remember that when we are talking about migrants, we are talking about human beings. Folks just like us – just like many of our ancestors – many of whom are fleeing horrible conditions, and are simply looking for a safe place to land for their families.

Spreading outright lies about vulnerable people to justify horrific, inhumane policies isn’t just wrong. It’s pure evil. And if we don’t put an end to it ASAFP, these policies are only going to get worse. Lives will be destroyed and lost. We can’t stand by for one more second allowing that.

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