The myths and realities of U.S. immigration

Taken together, The Upshot and Marshall Project study challenges the Trump administration’s false assertions about immigrants.

The debate over immigration gets repetitive. We argue about the merits of a wall, the morality of separating parents from their children at the border, and the minutiae of asylum. Lost in the politics are facts and figures — numbers and people.

After two years of hearing President Donald Trump cite links between crime and immigration we now know it is a false equation.

Results are in from a collaboration between The New York Times’ The Upshot and The Marshall Project, a nonprofit online journalism organization. While the U.S. immigrant population has risen by 118 percent since 1980, violent crime has gone down by 36 percent over the same period.

Looking at urban centers and crime, the study found no correlation between violence and the presence of immigrants. Coming on the heels of earlier studies that found no link between legal immigration and crime, this new analysis expands the research to include immigrants here illegally. In short, we can’t blame immigrants for our troubles.

But here is another surprise: We can’t survive without immigrants. Getting less attention are studies on the extraordinary value of immigrants. If you have a parent, a grandparent or know anyone 65 and older, chances are they will need care at some point. What you might not know is that, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a nonprofit organization, 1 million immigrants take care of our elderly in America. That’s right. One-fourth of the nation’s 4 million direct care workers are immigrants.

And don’t think that Trump and his administration are unaware that America relies on nurses and home care aides from the very places he seeks to crack down on — El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, as well as Muslim countries hurt by his immigration ban. A caregiver gap is something that might just wake up ordinary Americans to the fact that our elderly are in the hands of hardworking and dedicated Americans born in foreign lands, as well as people from foreign lands who are not yet Americans.

Taken together, The Upshot and Marshall Project study challenges this administration’s false assertions about immigration. It is time to move beyond rhetoric to reality.

Tara D. Sonenshine, a former U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, advises students at The George Washington University.

Tara D. Sonenshine