Rich Brown is an editor for EntreMundos Magazine, the official publication of the Guatemalan non-profit organization of the same name that promotes human rights and anti-poverty efforts, according to its website. He is also an instructor with Where There Be Dragons, a cultural immersion travel organization that brings teens and adults to countries around the world on summer and gap-year programs. Mr. Brown spoke to SHADES on February 21 about Central American migration and debunked myths about undocumented immigrants. What follows are excerpts from his presentation.
Myth 1: Most undocumented immigrants come from Mexico.
No. Today, most undocumented immigrants come from other countries like Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.
Myth 2: The more we crack down on undocumented immigration, the more gang violence will diminish.
Not necessarily. In certain neighborhoods, people are now more reluctant to report crime, including gang-related crime, as a result of stricter laws on immigration. An undocumented person could worry that when the police come to ask about the reported crime, they might also ask about your papers instead of the potential dangers you’re in. People here legally, as the vast majority of Latinos are, might still worry about undocumented family members in the home or the police responding to the wrong address where someone without legal status lives. The more people are worried about being deported, the less they report crime—[observed in Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Chicago]—because they fear the police.
Myth 3: A sanctuary city is a completely safe place for undocumented immigrants.
Sanctuary cities can somewhat protect their undocumented peoples. Local police forces will generally not send information or ask for immigration status from people that they interact with. If ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs] requests that status information, these forces will not give it to them. However, ICE, because it’s federal, has jurisdiction everywhere in the country. So if they come into a jail and start checking people’s statuses or start raiding 7/11s, like in Seattle, they can just arrest them.
Myth 4: Undocumented immigrants commit crimes at higher rates than U.S. citizens.
This is false. Almost all relevant studies show that U.S. citizens commit crimes at far higher rates. There is one recent study of certain state prison populations that gives the opposite impression. It has been circulated by some media that do not mention the conclusions of any other studies, an example of how many outlets cherry-pick data favorable to their bias. Undocumented immigrants are 44 percent less likely to be incarcerated than natives [according to the Cato Institute, a libertarian public policy research organization].
Myth 5: Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes.
Undocumented immigrants pay $12 billion in taxes each year, yet they’re not eligible for many social services—like social security, food stamps, etc.