SHAPIRO: 5 Leftist Myths On Immigration

A migrant caravan walks into the interior of Mexico after crossing the Guatemalan border on October 21, 2018 near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico
John Moore/Getty Images

We’ve been told that America is a nation of immigrants. That is true, of course, but it doesn’t go very far. America is a nation of ideas. And so long as immigrants embrace those ideas, America thrives. But in recent decades, immigration has been de-linked purposefully from assimilation by the Left. The result: a multicultural ethos that destroys founding values, drives a wedge between Americans, and destroys the social fabric. Immigration is an asset to a nation so long as the people who enter the country want to abide by the basic ground rules — which, in America, means self-reliance, personal morality, and acceptance of liberty as the basis for a workable society. Failure to do so means importation of groups of people who cannot help but undermine the American bargain for themselves, other immigrants, natives, and the next generation.

Myth 1: The source of immigration does not matter.

Fact: The ease of assimilation of immigrants absolutely matters.

Early in American history, Benjamin Franklin opposed a wave of German immigrants entering the United States, asking, “Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements?” The German community obviously persevered. George Washington set the terms for immigrants simply: immigrants had to “get assimilated to our customs, measures, and laws: in a word, soon become one people.”

As Mike Gonzalez of Heritage Foundation writes, “Adherence to the universal principles of equality, liberty, and limited government contained in the founding documents, as well as to virtues that made a constitutional republic viable — like frugality, industry, and moderation — would bind Americans together regardless of origin.”

In the 1840s, America experienced a surge of Northern European immigrants; in the 1870s and 1880s, Americans became so concerned over the mass immigration of Chinese into the United States that Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act; in the 1890s, “Italians, Slavs, Jews, Hungarians, Greeks, Armenians, Lebanese and others began to enter the country through Ellis Island.” The leaders of American government reiterated that all such immigrants had to be assimilated to the American way of life. Abraham Lincoln expressed the sentiment well:

If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none, they cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us, but when they look through that old Declaration of Independence . . . they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men.

In other words, creed is stronger than blood.[1]

Because creed mattered, the level of immigration from particular cultures varied over time. From 1901 to 1910, for example, Europe provided the source of nearly 91 percent of American immigration. From 1911 to 1920, Europe stillprovided 75 percent. In fact, Europe was the source of the majority of immigration into the United States until the 1960s.

Then, along came Teddy Kennedy. In 1965, the federal government passed a new immigration act that would make the source of immigration far less important. As the Center for Immigration Studies reports, “The new system eliminated the various nationality criteria, supposedly putting people of all nations on an equal footing for immigration to the United States.” The goal was to stomp out “discrimination” on all fronts. The legislation gave preference for immigration to the families of current immigrants, and only then special skill sets; skilled and unskilled workers in areas of labor shortages.[2]

Preventing true ideological screening of immigrants had long been the policy of the American left:

  • In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that citizenship could not be stripped on grounds of fraud from an applicant who had lied about his allegiance to the principles of Vladimir Lenin.[3]
  • In 1957, the Court ruled that even membership in the Communist Party was not reason enough for deportation, instead finding that members had to be “meaningful.”[4]

If the philosophy of those entering the country no longer matters, different people will enter the country. Naturally, what followed the 1965 immigration act was a massive influx of immigrants from countries with little history of Judeo-Christian values and limited government Americanism. From 1961 to 1970, more immigrants came from the Americas than from Europe. From 1971 to 1980 — a time of 7.3 million immigrants — 3.6 million came from the Americas and 2.7 million from Asia, with just 761,000 coming from Europe.[5]

That’s legal immigration. It doesn’t count illegal immigration, which is heaviest from America’s southern border. According to Pew Research, as of 2014, there were at least 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the United States, 49 percent of them from Mexico.[6]

Something else changed, too: the implementation of a vast bevy of social welfare programs that would make it extraordinarily tempting to enter the United States. Whereas before, immigrants came for opportunity, knowing they’d receive no handouts and expecting none, now many immigrants began streaming to the United States to take advantage of our public schools and other public services. They’re not to blame for that, of course — most immigrants, both legal and illegal, want a better life for their children. But if you prop up a sign reading “FREE CANDY” and then open your front door, you’re likely to get a different clientele than if you prop up a sign reading, “HELP WANTED.”

None of this is to say that people from non-European countries are incapable of assimilation into the founding ideology. But it is to say that the determination by some politicians to prevent assimilation in the name of multiculturalism bore predictable fruit: fewer immigrants embracing the vision of the founders:

  • An April 2012 Pew Hispanic Poll showed that 81 percent of Hispanics in America wanted a bigger government with more services; just 12 percent wanted the opposite.
  • In 2012, exit polls showed that 61 percent of Hispanics wanted Obamacare left as is or even expanded.[7]

This has tremendous electoral ramifications, of course. As Ann Coulter points out,

Sen. Ted Kennedy passed an immigration law that has brought 59 million foreigners to our shores, who happen to vote 8-2 for the Democrats. . . . Without post-1965 immigrants bloc-voting for the Democrats, Obama never would have been elected president, and Romney would have won a bigger landslide against him in 2012 than Reagan did against Carter in 1980. This isn’t a guess; it’s a provable fact. Obama beat Romney by less than 5 million votes in a presidential election in which about 125 million votes were cast. More than 30 million of Obama’s votes came from people who arrived under Teddy Kennedy’s immigration law; fewer than 10 million of Romney’s did.[8]

Here’s the bottom line: not every immigrant group is equally likely to assimilate. According to a 2008 study from the Manhattan Institute, the most assimilated immigrants come from Canada, followed by the Philippines and Cuba; by far the least assimilated group of immigrants came from Mexico, followed by India and El Salvador. Overall, assimilation has actually grown better since 1990, but immigrants to the United States in the early 20th century assimilated more quickly and thoroughly than immigrants today.[9]

Myth 2: Low-skill and illegal immigration helps the economy.

Fact: Low-skill and illegal immigration costs the United States significantly in terms of government programs.

High-tech legal immigration is a boon to the United States economically — such legal immigrants provide lower costs of labor and production, and provide entrepreneurialism that benefits American consumers and workers. But low-skill legal immigration, and illegal immigration — because illegal immigrants tend to be low-skill, low-wage workers — provide a serious drain on America’s public resources. Nearly one quarter of all immigrant households in the United States are led by a non-high school graduate, and the average immigrant household has significantly more children than the average citizen household.[10]

Legal immigrants are eligible for the vast majority of welfare programs; illegal immigrants typically rely on food programs and Medicaid via their kids. That doesn’t count the cost of education, either, which has skyrocketed in areas with a significant influx of immigrants.

  • The anti-illegal immigration group Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that the cost of “education, health care, law enforcement, and social and government services to illegal aliens and their dependents costs Californians $25.3 billion per year.”
  • That includes $14.4 billion spent on K-12 education, as well as another $4.4 billion on criminal justice system costs.[11]
  • As of 2007, 18 percent of households in LA County were on welfare — but 41 percent of immigrant households and 48 percent of households headed by an illegal immigrant were on a welfare program.[12]

Such costs aren’t relegated to California. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, nearly half of all households headed by legal immigrants used at least one welfare program in 2012, compared with 30 percent of native-headed households; that imbalance is particularly stark with regard to food programs (36 percent to 22 percent) and Medicaid (39 percent to 23 percent).

Legalizing illegal immigrants would make those immigrants eligible for such programs, widening that imbalance.[13]Immigrants and their children were responsible for “42 percent of the growth in Medicaid enrollment from 2011 to 2013,” largely because immigrants are disproportionately poor and uninsured. Immigrant families benefit disproportionately from expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare as well.[14]

In terms of absolute cost, CIS estimates that the average immigrant household takes $6,234 per year in federal welfare benefits, far higher than the native-born population’s $4,431 per household. Furthermore, “The average immigrant household consumes 33 percent more cash welfare, 57 percent more food assistance, and 44 percent more Medicaid dollars than the average native household.” Not all immigrants take the same amount of welfare, of course — households led by immigrants from Central America and Mexico average $8,251 in welfare benefits.[15]

Myth 3: Immigration decreases crime rates.

Fact: It is unclear whether immigration in the United States has increased crime rates.

Common wisdom suggests that immigrants have a far lower crime rate than those who are born in the United States. According to Pew Research, “The crime rate among first-generation immigrants — those who came to this country from somewhere else — is significantly lower than the overall crime rate and that of the second generation.”[16]

But David Frum of The Atlantic, no hardcore immigration opponent, wrote in 2015 that as of 2011, there were 25,000 illegal immigrants serving murder sentences, and nearly 3 million offenses committed by illegal immigrants between 2003 and 2009, including 70,000 sex crimes and hundreds of thousands of other violent crimes.[17]

Former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo reported in 2015 that between “2008 and 2014, 40% of all murder convictions in Florida were criminal aliens. In New York it was 34% and Arizona 17.8%. During those years, criminal aliens accounted for 38% of all murder convictions in the five states of California, Texas, Arizona, Florida and New York, while illegal aliens constitute only 5.6% of the total population in those states.”[18]

Why the disconnect regarding immigrant crime estimates? There are a few issues with measuring immigrant crime, particularly illegal immigrant crime:

  • First, statistical studies often use prison statistics, and as Frum points out, “Many of the people in prison today were sent there at a time when the foreign-born population was smaller and crime rates higher.” So if a smaller proportion of inmates are immigrants, that could reflect more on old crime rates than it does on immigrant crime rates.
  • Second, lumping together all natives against all immigrants does a disservice to both natives and immigrants — there are sub-groups within both “natives” and “immigrants” with widely varying crime rates. Domestically born Jews, for example, have a far lower crime rate than domestically born blacks; Asian immigrants have a far lower crime rate than Mexican immigrants; Chinese immigrants have a far lower crime rate than Vietnamese immigrants.[19]

Overall, statistics on immigrant crime are quite poorly kept. That’s because so many crime statistics depend on the Census, which undersamples illegal immigrant populations. Alex Nowrasteh of CATO Institute, an ardent advocate of open immigration, admits, “studies of immigrant criminality based on Census data alone could fail to give the full picture . . . the government has done a very poor job of gathering data on the nationality and immigration status of prisoners — even when it has tried.”[20]

In his comprehensive tome The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America, Professor Barry Latzer sums up his findings: “[A]ssertions that immigration invariably reduces crime in the host country are not borne out by the evidence. Such contentions have no more support than the converse claim that immigrants inevitably raise crime rates.” Latzer concludes that the crime rate of the incoming community and the crime rate of the absorbing community make all the difference. In communities like Los Angeles and Miami, high levels of immigration had undoubtedly raised the crime rates.[21]

Myth 4: Multiculturalism improves Western society.

Fact: Multiculturalism destroys Western society.

In September 2011, then-British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke at a security conference in Munich. There, he laid out a vitriolic critique of “state multiculturalism”: the philosophy that suggests that there need not be any assimilation to Western civilization by new immigrants, and that diversity of behavior enriches society. Cameron stated baldly, “Let’s properly judge these organizations: Do they believe in universal human rights — including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism? These are the sorts of questions we need to ask.” Cameron continued that genuinely liberal countries “believe” in “certain values” and “actively promote” them.[22]

Cameron’s perspective has now become commonplace across the continent, given the influx of Muslim immigrants who see no purpose in assimilating to local standards of morality. Even German chancellor Angela Merkel, who supports importing hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants into Europe, has said that “Multiculturalism leads to parallel societies and therefore remains a ‘life lie.’”

“The challenge is immense,” Merkel added. “We want and we will reduce the number of refugees noticeably.” She’s been saying that for years, even as she imports unvetted Muslim immigrants, who can then shuttle all over Europe; in 2010, she said, “Of course the tendency had been to say, ‘Let’s adopt the multicultural concept and live happily side by side, and be happy to be living with each other.’ But this concept has failed, and failed utterly.”[23]

Myth 5: Muslim immigration to Europe has had no effect on the continent.

Fact: Muslim immigration has changed the culture, economy, and crime rates in Europe.

Because of Europe’s depleted socialist economy, they’ve been forced between a rock and a hard place: they can either import immigrants and hope that those new immigrants will provide the labor necessary to keep their economy from imploding, or they can utilize austerity measures. They’ve chosen a combination, and the result has been catastrophic. Crime rates are up all over the continent, particularly in areas heavy with new Muslim immigrants. In 2015, the Gatestone Institute reported that Muslim migrants were responsible for 208,344 crimes in 2015, an 80 percent increase over 2014. High-profile terrorism cases and shocking stories of mass sexual harassment and even rape of Western women sickened Westerners across the globe.[24]

Unwilling to face up to the Muslim immigrant crime wave, the left-leaning media have instead ignored that crime wave — they’re reported the major upsurge in anti-Semitic attacks, but refused to acknowledge that those anti-Semitic attacks are a direct consequence of increased Muslim immigration. For example, in Sweden, violent crime has skyrocketed thanks to importation of unassimilated Muslims. Some demographers even suggest that within 15 years, indigenous Swedes could be a minority in their own country.[25] By 2050, ten percent of the continent will be Muslim.

In Great Britain, the problem of crime within Muslim enclaves has grown so severe that the authorities and the press simply refuse to report it properly. Between 1997 and 2013, some 1,400 children were sexually abused in Rotherham. The media refused to report the story because they believed that doing so would cause a spike in “racism.” According to Professor Alexis Jay’s report on the story, “Several councilors interviewed believed that by opening up these issues they could be ‘giving oxygen’ to racist perspectives that might in turn attract extremist political groups and threaten community cohesion.”[26]

Then there has been the uptick in terrorism throughout Europe. First off, more British Muslims have joined ISIS than have registered as Muslims in the British military.[27] France recently had to shut down 20 “radical mosques” for preaching terrorist ideology.[28] Since 2001, there has been a massive spike in the number of terror attacks on European soil. Virtually all of those terror attacks are jihadist in nature.[29]

This makes sense, given the radicalism of much of Europe’s Muslim community. A poll in February 2015 found widespread sympathy for radical views among British Muslims:

  • 27 percent of British Muslims said they had “some sympathy for the motives” behind the terrorist attack on French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo;
  • 11 percent said that magazines with the temerity to publish cartoons of Mohammed “deserve to be attacked”;
  • and just 68 percent said that attacks on such publishers are “never justified.”[30]

A 2013 poll found that approximately 16 percent of French Muslims said that they supported ISIS.[31] This is far better than Muslims living in Muslim majority nations, but it’s certainly cause for unease.

The Muslim citizens of the United States are far more moderate than European Muslims, although poll data varies widely — a Pew poll from 2011 found that 19 percent of American Muslims thought that suicide bombings could sometimes or rarely be justified.[32] But that could change radically depending on the nature of Muslims imported from countries with no history of Western assimilation. A 2015 survey from the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies found that 13 percent of Syrian refugees felt a level of sympathy for ISIS; another 10 percent said they were not entirely negative toward ISIS. And you don’t have to be an ISIS recruit to fail basic standards of ideological compatibility with Western civilization.

One need not believe that Islam is a violent religion to be concerned about the level of support for violence within Muslim communities. The creed of multiculturalism suggests that it is the West’s job to adjust to the moral standards of non-Western immigrants, rather than the other way around. The result has been disastrous for Europe. It will be similarly disastrous for America.



[1] Mike Gonzalez, “Patriotic Assimilation Is an Indispensable Condition in a Land of Immigrants,” Heritage.org, January 8, 2016 http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2016/01/patriotic-assimilation-is-an-indispensable-condition-in-a-land-of-immigrants

[2] “Three Decades of Mass Immigration: The Legacy of the 1965 Immigration Act,” CIS.org, September 1995 http://cis.org/1965ImmigrationAct-MassImmigration

[3] Schneiderman v. United States, 320 US 118 (1943).

[4] Rowoldt v. Perfetto, 355 US 115 (1957).

[5] “Section 31: 20th Century Statistics,” Census.gov https://www.census.gov/prod/99pubs/99statab/sec31.pdf

[6] Jens Manuel Krogstad and Jeffrey S. Passel, “5 facts about illegal immigration in the US,” PewResearch.org, November 19, 2015 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/19/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/

[7] Ben Shapiro, “Post-Election, Conservatives Must Stop Amnesty,” TruthRevolt.org, November 5, 2014 http://www.truthrevolt.org/videos/ben-shapiro-amnesty-wont-create-conservative-victories

[8] Ann Coulter, “The War on America Turns 50,” AnnCoulter.com, September 30, 2015 http://www.anncoulter.com/columns/2015-09-30.html

[9] Jacob L. Vigdor, “Measuring Immigrant Assimilation in The United States,” Manhattan Institute, May 2008 http://www.manhattan-institute.org/pdf/cr_53.pdf

[10] Jason Richwine, “The Cost of Welfare Use By Immigrant and Native Households,” CIS.org, May 2016 http://cis.org/Cost-Welfare-Immigrant-Native-Households

[11] “Illegal Immigration Costs California Taxpayers More Than $25 Billion a Year, Finds FAIR,” CIS.org, June 19, 2014 http://www.fairus.org/news/illegal-immigration-costs-california-taxpayers-more-than-25-billion-a-year-finds-fair

[12] Barry Latzer, The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America (Encounter Books: New York, 2016), 196.

[13] Steven A. Camarota, “Welfare Use by Legal and Illegal Immigrant Households,” CIS.org, September 2015 http://cis.org/Welfare-Use-Legal-Illegal-Immigrant-Households

[14] Steven A. Camarota, Karen Zeigler, “Immigrant Families Benefit Significantly from Obamacare,” CIS.org, November 2014 http://cis.org/immigrant-families-accounted-for-42-percent-of-medicaid-growth-since-2011

[15] Jason Richwine, “The Cost of Welfare Use By Immigrant and Native Households,” CIS.org, May 2016 http://cis.org/Cost-Welfare-Immigrant-Native-Households

[16] Philip Bump, “Surprise! Donald Trump is wrong about immigrants and crime.” WashingtonPost.com, July 2, 2015 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/07/02/surprise-donald-trump-is-wrong-about-immigrants-and-crime/

[17] David Frum, “The Problem With Downplaying Immigrant Crime,” TheAtlantic.com, July 29, 2015 http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/the-problem-with-downplaying-immigrant-crime/399905/

[18] Tom Tancredo, “Illegal Alien Crime Accounts For Over 30% of Murders IN Many States,” Breitbart.com, August 8, 2015 http://www.breitbart.com/big-journalism/2015/08/08/illegal-alien-crime-accounts-for-over-30-of-murders-in-some-states/

[19] David Frum, “The Problem With Downplaying Immigrant Crime,” TheAtlantic.com, July 29, 2015 http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/07/the-problem-with-downplaying-immigrant-crime/399905/

[20] Alex Nowrasteh, “Immigration and Crime – What The Research Says,” CATO.org, July 14, 2015 http://www.cato.org/blog/immigration-crime-what-research-says

[21] Barry Latzer, The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America (Encounter Books: New York, 2016), 207.

[22] “State multiculturalism has failed, says David Cameron,” BBC.com, February 5, 2011 http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-12371994

[23] Rick Noack, “Multiculturalism is a sham, says Angela Merkel,” WashingtonPost.com, December 14, 2015 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/12/14/angela-merkel-multiculturalism-is-a-sham/

[24] Soeren Kern, “Germany: Migrant Crime Skyrockets,” GatestoneInstitute.org, February 21, 2016 https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/7470/germany-migrants-crime

[25] Sue Reid, “Torn apart by an open door for migrants,” DailyMail.co.uk, March 7, 2016 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3317978/Torn-apart-open-door-migrants-Sweden-seen-Europe-s-liberal-nation-violent-crime-soaring-Far-Right-march-reports-SUE-REID.html

[26] Katie Hall, “Real or imagined: Racism ‘fear’ over Rotherham child abuse,” BBC.com, August 27, 2014 http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-28951612

[27] Madeline Grant and Damien Sharkov, “‘Twice as many’ British Muslims fighting for ISIS than in UK armed forces,” Newsweek.com, August 20, 2014 http://www.newsweek.com/twice-many-british-muslims-fighting-isis-armed-forces-265865

[28] “France’s Disappearing Mosques,” TheAtlantic.com, August 1, 2016 http://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2016/08/french-mosques-islam/493919/

[29] “PEOPLE KILLED BY TERRORISM PER YEAR IN WESTERN EUROPE 1970-2015,” Datagraver.com http://www.datagraver.com/case/people-killed-by-terrorism-per-year-in-western-europe-1970-2015

[30] “Quarter of British Muslims sympathizes with Charlie Hebdo terrorists,” Telegraph.co.uk, February 25, 2015 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/11433776/Quarter-of-British-Muslims-sympathise-with-Charlie-Hebdo-terrorists.html

[31] Madeline Grant, “16% of French Citizens Support ISIS, Poll Finds,” Newsweek.com, September 26, 2014 http://www.newsweek.com/16-french-citizens-support-isis-poll-finds-266795

[32] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” PewForum.org, April 30, 2013 http://www.pewforum.org/files/2013/04/worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-full-report.pdf