Turn on the television or cable TV and you will hear a lot about the current news and issues. One of these is illegal immigration news which the media has built a lot of hype and hysteria around, giving the American public a false view of several key issues.
The first and most pervasive myth that some in the media sensationalize is that illegal aliens commit more crimes than citizens and that there is a crime wave about to sweep the nation.
This idea is simply not true. In fact, the reality is quite the opposite of what many people believe. Of course, as with any large population, there will be a number of crimes including violent and sexual crimes. However, researchers from the University of Michigan and Harvard University have found that immigrants commit fewer crimes than citizens and that there were lower rates of crime in areas with large immigrant populations.
This is exactly the opposite of some illegal immigration news reported in the media.
Another common myth that is frequently discussed in the news is that illegal aliens do not pay taxes and put an undue strain on social services. It is not uncommon to hear callers, guests and media people complaining about how illegal immigrants are receiving food stamps, Social Security and other government aid without paying for it in the form of taxes.
However, again the truth is the opposite of what is claimed as fact on television and in the news. Illegal immigrants are not eligible to receive most government aid and they do pay taxes as well as Social Security dues. As a matter of fact, even documented immigrants are not eligible for food stamps, welfare, Medicaid and other such forms of government assistance during their first five years of stay in the US.
Quite apart from these two common myths, there are many other unsubstantiated fears that the media have planted in the minds of their audience.
For example, massive voter fraud is supposed to have been perpetuated by illegal immigrants. This is clearly absurd as voter fraud is a very rare occurrence. Only 24 people in the whole of the United States have been convicted of voter fraud from 2002 to 2005. The incidence of voter fraud is roughly the same as that of people dying from lighting strikes, a frequent metaphor for an extremely unlikely event.
Feeding on the hysteria about illegal immigration are some rumors about “Aztlan” or parts of the Southwest that Mexico supposedly secretly plans to conquer. However Mexican-born citizens and undocumented workers are overwhelmingly not in favor of any such plan and that there is no real Aztlan plan, it is simply a tale that has no real basis in reality.
Media has a responsibility to the public to report the illegal immigration news fairly and accurately. In addition to these myths, there have been calls for media to stop using the terms “aliens” and “illegal aliens” because it dehumanizes the people involved. Some media reports even use the term “illegals” as a shorthand term for illegal immigrants. Such use unfairly criminalizes undocumented workers. Using “illegals” as a noun to refer to a person also criminalizes the person himself, not the actions that may have been made. It is hoped that the media will refer to them as undocumented workers instead.