The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Community and Economic Development Group and the Georgia Tech's School of City and Regional Planning

Karen Leone de Nie, Community and Economic Development

Immigration Myths Unveiled

The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's recent Community and Economic Development Forum, The Great Immigration Turnaround: New Facts and Old Rhetoric, featured guest speaker Dowell Myers, professor at the University of Southern California's Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Myers debunked what he termed the "four myths" of immigration, largely held views that have not shifted much since they were originally formed in the mid-1990s, at the height of U.S. immigration.

The four myths, and their counterviews, included:

  • The number of immigrants is accelerating out of control. Myers argues that though the United States currently has a foreign-born population of 39.9 million—a record high—the rate of growth has actually slowed, falling from 57 percent in the 1990s to 29 percent in the 2000s.
  • Immigrants are all newcomers. While newer "gateways" like Georgia and the Carolinas have experienced annual increases in the number of immigrants, older "gateways" like California, New York, and Texas peaked a decade ago.
  • Immigrants are like Peter Pan, never changing over time no matter how long they are in America. Myers shared data showing striking gains in income, home ownership, English proficiency, and citizenship among immigrants who arrived between 1985 and 1989.
  • Immigrants are an unwanted burden, especially given our fiscal crisis. Myers argues that the opposite is true, pointing for example to the impending retirement of millions of baby boomers, which will make immigrants a necessary addition to the U.S. workforce.

The forum also featured a presentation by Matt Hauer, head of the Applied Demography Program at the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, who explored immigration trends specific to Georgia.