WASHINGTON – One of U.S. President Donald Trump’s most consistent platforms, both during his run for office and during his occupancy of the White House thus far, has been the dangers of illegal immigration and the necessity to create a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. So far, he has not proposed a border wall to keep out Canadian immigrants. But despite his divisive and arguably misinformed rhetoric — and how his fan base has embraced it — polls suggest that the majority of Americans actually disagree with the Donald.
Although immigrants comprise roughly 13% of the U.S. population, the majority of Americans surveyed over the last decade or so have expressed concerns about the negative effects of immigration on the country as a whole. Since 2015, a poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC has inquired as to whether “immigration helps the United States more than it hurts it.” In 2005, 53% of respondents said that it hurts the country more than it helps, while only 37% of Americans said it helps the U.S. more than it hurts.
This take continued to prevail until around 2012, when public opinion started to take a turn. In this year’s poll, it was revealed that 61% of Americans felt that immigration helps more than hurts, while 28% took the stance that immigration hurts the nation. In effect, the trend more than reversed over a span of 13 years. These sentiments are echoed by a Gallup poll from June 2018 wherein 75% of Americans (a record high) expressed that they felt immigration is a “good thing.”
What’s more, an Economic/YouGov poll from earlier this summer found that more people wanted to increase legal immigration than decrease it, with more people opposing the border wall than supporting it. In fact, 52% of respondents favored the idea of giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship, while 35% of people surveyed saying they would rather undocumented immigrants leave the U.S. entirely.
It’s important to note, of course, that undocumented immigration is actually at an all-time low already. Lawful immigrants account for approximately 75% of the foreign-born population across the country, while the number of undocumented immigrants has been on a noticeable decline since 2007. Pre Research Center data shows that 11 years ago, there were approximately 12.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. By 2016, that number had decreased to 10.7 million. And notably, the most significant decreases in undocumented immigrant populations were those coming from Mexico. In 2007, nearly 6,950,000 unauthorized Mexican immigrants were living in the U.S., but that figure has fallen to 5,450,000 since then.
Due to increased border security, however, it’s actually been more difficult for undocumented immigrants to leave the United States — which means that they’re remaining here for longer periods now than they did a decade ago. But contrary to popular believe, undocumented immigrants contribute to our economy and pay taxes. Non-citizens who are authorized to work in the U.S. pay the same taxes as citizens do, while millions of undocumented immigrants voluntarily pay taxes (including for benefits they aren’t even eligible to take advantage of). Income taxes account for nearly half of federal revenue, contributing approximately $1.688 trillion. The most recent IRS data from 2015 shows the agency received 4.4 million income tax returns from workers without Social Security numbers — a group that includes a large portion of undocumented immigrants. That year, that group paid $23.6 billion in income taxes. Pew Research estimates that 3.4 million undocumented workers paid Social Security taxes in 2014 and contributed $13 billion in payroll taxes in 2010, despite the fact that many of these individuals could have easily slipped through the cracks and choose not to file at all.
Ultimately, the misinformation circulating about immigration is starting to catch up with the current administration. According to research, countries that welcome refugees and immigrants are actually happier than countries without open immigration policies. While there’s certainly room for improvement within the U.S. immigration system, it seems that the more President Trump protests against the evils of immigration, the less Americans are likely to take him at his word.
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