Messaging: Immigration

December 1, 2013

Below is some of our favorite language on immigration, including topline talking points, facts worth knowing, and responses to the attacks you can anticipate when debating this topic.

TOPLINES:

  • Americans know our immigration system is broken.
  • Americans want common sense solutions that reflect both our interests and values.
  • Parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents moved their families here to seek freedom and a better life for their children. Welcoming aspiring Americans is a proud American tradition.
  • Anyone who treats America as their home should be treated like an American. Saying that immigrants can only be dependent takers is an insult to the American Dream.
  • It’s not the American way to create a second class of people — people whose home is America but who are permanently excluded by Washington lawmakers from earning citizenship.
  • Creating a real road to citizenship instead of creating a second class of people does more than just reflect our values as Americans. It will pay off for the rest of us and the economy.
  • They would have to work hard for a real chance to earn citizenship — through steps like passing a background check and learning English — but hard work can pay off only if the process is fair and reasonable.
  • Even conservative leaders agree that giving immigrants a real chance at earned citizenship is a net boost to our economy as they move into jobs paid on the books, start their own businesses, and pay taxes — boosting American workers’ incomes along the way.

WORTH KNOWING:

  • Three out of four Americans, or nearly 75%, agree that immigrants in the country who meet certain requirements should have a way to stay legally.
  • The conservative organizations and leaders who have discredited the Heritage Foundation report include the Cato Institute; Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform; the American Enterprise Institute; Doug Holtz-Eakin, prominent conservative economist and president of the American Action Forum; Haley Barbour, former RNC chairman and Mississippi governor; Sen. John McCain; Sen. Marco Rubio; and Rep. Paul Ryan.
  • Credible studies show that our immigration system is so dysfunctional now that by reforming it, we would generate over $1.4 trillion in economic growth and boost Americans’ personal incomes by nearly $800 billion.
  • In fact, in recent years, the metropolitan areas with the fastest economic growth also had the greatest increases in immigrant workers.
  • Research clearly shows that immigrant workers help grow the economy overall, leading to lower unemployment and higher wages for those of us already here.
  • Even with highly skilled workers, higher immigration increases the demand for workers, stimulates investment, and promotes specialization for many workers already in the labor force.
  • In contrast, trying to round up and deport 11 million people would cost us a quarter of a trillion dollars and cost our economy billions.

ATTACKS+RESPONSES:

ATTACK: “Legalization is amnesty.”

RESPONSE:

  • We’re talking about giving people the chance to earn citizenship — after waiting years and meeting multiple requirements, like learning English and passing a background check. It’s in all our interests to give them that opportunity to continue contributing to America.
  • Leadership isn’t about scoring political points — it’s about solving problems. Politicians who say we can deport 11 million people aren’t being honest. It doesn’t make financial sense either: it would cost us a quarter of a trillion dollars and cost our economy billions.
  • President George W. Bush supported creating a road to citizenship. Now a bipartisan group of senators is leading the way on immigration reform that includes earned citizenship for immigrants.
ATTACK: “Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes.”

RESPONSE:

  • Immigrants would love to be in the system and pay regular taxes like any other American citizen. That is their dream.
  • Right now, they usually only pay sales taxes, state and local taxes, and property taxes.
  • Many do also manage to pay income and payroll taxes, paying nearly $15 billion into Social Security each year, though they cannot collect benefits.

 

ATTACK: “Immigrants will take jobs away from American workers.”

RESPONSE:

  • Good jobs and a growing economy for American workers are our top challenge right now. The good news here is that the research shows clearly that immigrant workers help grow the economy overall, leading to lower unemployment and higher wages for those of us already here.
  • That’s partly because immigrants and workers born in the U.S. generally don’t compete for the same jobs. Even with highly skilled workers, higher immigration increases the demand for workers, stimulates investment, and promotes specialization for many workers already in the labor force.
  • Most importantly, fair and practical immigration reform will allow us to crack down on businesses that undercut American workers by exploiting cheap immigrant labor off the books. That levels the playing field for honest businesses that play by the rules and pay their workers decently.
  • Because immigrants are also consumers and taxpayers, comprehensive immigration reform would be good for the economy. That’s common sense — the more people we have buying food, clothing, housing, and cars, the more businesses need to hire to keep up.
ATTACK: “Illegal immigrants come to the United States to take advantage of government welfare.”

RESPONSE:

  • Federal programs like food stamps have always excluded undocumented immigrants, and the leading immigration reform proposals on the table do not even give immigrants with legal status access to federal public programs.
  • People come to America for the opportunity to work to get ahead, to make life better for themselves and their families. Most families moved here in the past for the same reason that American immigrants move here today — to seek freedom and a better life for their children.
  • Over 90% of immigrants here without papers say they came to America to seek a chance at a better life, to be reunited with their family, or to find freedom from political oppression.
ATTACK: “Illegal immigration costs U.S. taxpayers over $110 billion a year.”

RESPONSE:

  • This claim by the discredited anti-immigrant group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has been debunked. As noted by a policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, it’s riddled with errors and so flawed that it leads to absurd conclusions.
  • Fair and practical immigration reform will let us crack down on businesses that undercut American workers by exploiting cheap immigrant labor off the books. That also allows us to level the playing field for honest businesses that play by the rules and pay their workers decent wages.
  • Because immigrants are also consumers and taxpayers, comprehensive immigration reform would be good for the economy. That’s common sense — the more people we have buying food, clothing, housing, and cars, the more businesses need to hire to keep up.
  • Credible studies suggest that our immigration system is so dysfunctional now that by reforming it, we would generate over $1.4 trillion in economic growth and boost Americans’ personal incomes by nearly $800 billion. No surprise — in recent years, the metropolitan areas with the fastest economic growth also had the greatest increases in immigrant workers.
MYTH: “Illegal immigrants are criminals and commit more violent crimes than US citizens.”

RESPONSE:

  • Crime is a serious problem, but this is just a myth. Immigrants have the lowest crime rates of any demographic group, and compared to people born in the U.S., immigrants are less likely to end up in prison — a fact that even anti-immigrant groups have acknowledged.
  • It only makes sense — they come here to work hard and keep their heads down. The last thing they want is trouble with the authorities.
  • The vast majority of immigrants are hardworking and law-abiding, but it’s not in our interests or consistent with our values to create a haven for any exceptions either. That’s why the major immigration reform proposals would require aspiring citizens to pass criminal background checks.
  • Many law enforcement officials say cooperation from our immigrant communities helps keep our neighborhoods safer — and that anti-immigrant state laws actually do the opposite by breeding suspicion and fear among members of the community who’ve done nothing wrong.
Category: Immigration