New report belies Steve King's scaremongering on immigration

Representative Steve King owes much of his political notoriety to hyping alleged threats posed by immigrants. From being the Iowa legislature’s leading advocate for an “official English” law to sparking a national uproar over his claim that there are 100 drug mules for every “DREAMer” who’s a valedictorian, King is a voice for those who believe immigrants–particularly Hispanic immigrants and their progeny–may drag the U.S. down to “Third World status.” His official Congressional website features a section on “illegal immigration stories,” highlighting violent crimes committed by people not authorized to live in this country. He is the primary Congressional sponsor of legislation to end birthright citizenship, a stance that is becoming more mainstream in the Republican Party. He led the successful fight to prevent DREAMers covered under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals from enlisting in the U.S. military.

Yet a new report on “The Integration of Immigrants into American Society” belies most of King’s scaremongering about demographic shifts in the U.S. population. Julia Preston summarized the report’s highlights for the New York Times.

Eighteen scholars collaborated on the new report for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, which determined that the integration of immigrants is increasing “across all measurable outcomes.”

[Harvard Sociology] Professor [Mary] Waters said the report should allay fears that recent immigrants committed crimes more frequently than Americans, that they were generally in poor health and burden public health care systems, or that they were failing to learn English.

“The desire on the part of immigrants to learn English is very high,” Professor Waters said the researchers found. Concerns that the latest generation of immigrants is seeking to impose its languages on American society “is not something people should be worried about,” she said.

Earlier this year, King linked approvingly to a commentary by Heather Mac Donald, which asserted that “the vast majority of English learners are born here, but their cognitive and language skills are so low that they are deemed non-native English speakers. Nationally, 30 percent of all English learner students are third-generation Americans.”

In contrast, Preston’s article noted that

English language learning “is happening as rapidly or faster now than it did for earlier waves of mainly European immigrants in the 20th century,” the report found. […] By the third generation, most immigrant children speak only English, the report found.

Mac Donald also depicted immigrants as a huge drain on social services, especially schools, hospitals, and prisons. But the report found “foreign-born adults and children are healthier in general than Americans,” with “fewer chronic illnesses and lower rates of obesity.”

This summer, Donald Trump supplanted King as the loudest voice connecting immigrants to higher levels of violent crime. The evidence doesn’t support those claims either.

On crime, the report found that over all, immigrant men 18 to 39 were incarcerated at about one-fourth the rate of American men in that group. “Cities and neighborhoods with greater concentrations of immigrants have much lower rates of crime and violence” than similar places without immigrants, the report said.

[…] “We’ve always been worried that immigrants increase crime, and it has never been true for the first generation,” [Professor Waters] said.

I’m not holding my breath for King to acknowledge “The Integration of Immigrants into American Society,” but the findings should make it easier for journalists to fact-check King’s wild assertions.

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