The United States is a nation of immigrants. For over 300 years, people from almost every country on every continent have settled in America, voluntarily or not. With the exception of Native Americans, every person living in the U.S. is technically either an immigrant or the descendent of one.
Despite this fact, each wave of immigrants has endured its own brand of prejudice and resentment. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the persecution of German-Americans during World War I, discrimination against immigrants has typically accompanied times of economic misfortune, political unrest or war.
Intolerance towards immigrants still exists today. The following are several common myths currently held about immigrants in America:
Myth: Immigrants steal jobs from Americans.
Fact: Immigrants create more jobs than they fill, because they are more likely to be self-employed or to start new businesses. Although immigrants represent about 10 percent of America's population, they establish 18 percent of all small businesses. Small businesses are responsible for up to 80 percent of the new jobs generated in the U.S. each year.
Myth: Immigrants are bleeding America's economy.
Fact: Immigrants help boost America's economy. In addition to creating more jobs, raising the productivity of American businesses and spending their incomes on American goods and services, immigrants pay $90 billion a year in taxes, while they receive only $5 billion in public assistance. They are less likely to utilize public benefits or become dependent on welfare than native born citizens.
Myth: America is being overrun by immigrants.
Fact: The percentage of immigrants in America has decreased by 5 percent since 1910. Furthermore, illegal immigrants remain under 1 percent of America's population.
Myth: Immigrants do not want to learn English.
Fact: Immigrants' demand for classes in English far outweighs the available supply. After 15 years of living in America, 75 percent of Spanish-speaking immigrants regularly speak English, and their children prefer to speak English over their native tongue.
America has always been a country of immigrants -- cherished and renowned as a cultural melting pot founded on the principle of equality. Remember that in 1900, Norwegian, Swedish, and German were commonly spoken throughout Morris's general stores, saloons and residences. History has shown that our diversity has been one of our strongest assets. And remember, if you think other people's cultural practices are odd, have you ever really thought about lutefisk or bratwurst?