Immigrants commit more crimes? Don't learn English? Hurt the U.S. economy?  These are "zombie ideas"-- false claims that refuse to die.  Professor Rubén Rumbaut sets the record straight.

United States


00:00:05this is Tempest tost conversations on the creation and and I'm Alex immigrants tend to be young intrepid people risk takers ambitious they're looking for opportunities and when they come and take them they revitalize expand today's episode will focus on zombie ideas on immigration that is false ideas that
00:00:42refuse to die we got through this way when president trump was in Europe in July of this year he made several comments about how immigration had affected the culture of Europe affected that in a bad way as he continued to speak he added the United States into the
00:01:00mix here are a few brief excerpts I think it's been very bad for Europe I think Europe is a place I know very well and I think that what has happened is very tough and I I just think it's a changing the culture of the good so very
00:01:15negative thing for Europe and I know it's politically not necessarily correct to say that but I'll say it and I'll say it loud it's a very sad situation it's very unfortunate but I do not think it's good for Europe and I don't think it's good for our country
00:01:30so it got me thinking about the misinformation that is regularly repeated about the impact that immigration has on the United States and that led me to Ruben Rombout distinguished professor of sociology at the university of California Irvine professor room Bucks is a leading expert on immigration to the
00:01:49United States and is devoted decades to empirical research on immigrants and the children of immigrants Ruben run about tonight spoke recently at the Dodge one twelve studio in Brooklyn with and so nice to have you here with us today thank you Alex you've heard the the quotes from
00:02:08president trump about the impact of immigration on culture and Europe and and his views on immigration in the United States which are well known for his men is many statements I would get to the bigger picture a little later in this conversation but I want to start with
00:02:23an idea that that that you've been using a concept you've been using as you've talked about the immigration over the last couple of years that's idea of zombie ideas in immigration what do you mean by zombie ideas and immigration my zombie ideas I mean %HESITATION ideas that by
00:02:42all rights should be dead but they keep rising from the dead despite a mountain of evidence to prove otherwise their fullest ideas and stereotypes that and do what's in what's an example of that new immigration area well you mentioned president trump with this can go back to colonial
00:03:02times the ideas that immigrants bring crime indices to the United States that immigrants take jobs away from natives that immigrants don't assimilate that they don't learn the English language %HESITATION those are examples of what his full cycle let's let's let's take those one by one on crime it
00:03:20is commonly said and certainly the president said this that Mexico is sending criminals to the United States and that that these are dangerous people that all should be sent home what what what are the facts with that idea yeah that is the perception of a threat to the
00:03:37security of the community or country and hands the idea that they bring crime is one that goes back to colonial times at whenever there have been periods when large numbers of immigrants who differ in significant ways like in race and language and so on from the natives arrive
00:03:55they tend to be perceived and stereotyped as threats as security threats cultural threats economic threats in the case of crime %HESITATION over a hundred years ago in the last great mass of European migration that idea was put to the test by three major government commissions created by the
00:04:15US government and in each one of them over three different decades they had a volume devoted just to crime and immigration and what they found was to their astonishment that immigration was not associated with crime but on the contrary that crime was much more likely to be associated
00:04:34with the native born than with the foreign born %HESITATION when you come to the present period take the last twenty five years which have been the years of the greatest increase in immigration and specially of undocumented immigration say from nineteen ninety two to the present in that period
00:04:52of time %HESITATION when specially undocumented immigration was rising to historic highs nationally the violent crime rate in the United States commented to historic lows and the property crime rate in the United States also %HESITATION fell to near lows in addition %HESITATION if immigration were associated with crime you'd
00:05:14expect to fight find higher crime rates in states and localities of greater immigrant concentration and the findings show exactly the opposite that the more immigrants there are in the city or in the state the lower the crime rates and some of the safest places around the cities along
00:05:31the US Mexican border from el Paso to San Diego and major cities like LA in New York that have very large numbers of immigrants have also register historic lows in crime rates if you look also at incarceration rates you find that at the native born are much more
00:05:51likely to be in incarcerating state prisons and so on for crimes than are the foreign born among the foreign born that applies without exception to every single nationality they have lower rates of incarceration than the native born someone may answer your point that the farm born commit crimes
00:06:09at a lower rate than native born with the statement that yes but they're still committing crimes a so we shouldn't have more foreign born because even if they are less likely to commit crimes than none the less add to the overall number of crimes being committed in the
00:06:26United States what would you say that well they certainly don add to the crime rate in the United States %HESITATION if you were to remove large numbers of immigrants from the United States thinking that perhaps the few that come to commit a crime will somehow reduce crime in
00:06:45the United States you're mistaking the nature of the problem the crime rate will in fact increase the more you take immigrant immigrants out of the country and that's because you're taking out of the denominator %HESITATION immigrants who are law abiding and don't commit crimes and as a result
00:07:01the native born who do commit crimes are higher rate would be more likely to show in the numerator and they shrunk to nominate in addition %HESITATION the fact that I mean there's no doubt that human beings are human beings and you'll have a whole %HESITATION distribution %HESITATION within
00:07:19any given group from the richest to the less virtuous there will of course be immigrants that will commit a crime %HESITATION that doesn't mean however that by getting rid of all immigrants you're somehow going to help the crime picture in the country those same immigrants that bring those
00:07:38crime rates down nationally and state wide locally and so on end of settling in dilapidated areas of cities for example and revitalizing those communities and in the process they bring down violent crime in those communities and you see that time and time and time again at so the
00:07:55contribution of immigrants to the crime rate is a positive one across the board you can take one anecdote of one criminal immigrant for example just recently %HESITATION one that shot the this young woman %HESITATION activists era and %HESITATION president trump immediately took that anecdote as a way of
00:08:18tiring all immigrants as being crime prone %HESITATION it's answer it took the father of the murdered girl to have to go likely to repudiate those kinds of comments and said that his daughter was completely against that kind of hatred that kind of %HESITATION vile racism that try to
00:08:39target with an entire group with one single incident M. anecdotal evidence is powerful because he can appeal to fear can appeal to emotion and that's the fundamental nature of zombie ideas they're not fact based their fear based their emotion laden and they can manipulate emotions %HESITATION so that
00:09:00you forget about what the facts are and you react to the mall so you mentioned the sides crime you mentioned %HESITATION the effect on the economy and it's a war frequently said that immigrants coming into the country lower wage rates hurt American workers by competing with them or
00:09:17if they're not working there on the welfare rolls and and getting benefits from American taxpayers are those on the ideas are those facts they are absolutely zombie ideas %HESITATION to begin with the first the idea that immigrants take jobs away from natives that idea is based on a
00:09:38mistaken section of the nature of the US economy D. US economy is not static is not fixed there's not as zero sum say a pie of jobs any of an immigrant takes one job that means that one last there'll be one less job for native on the country
00:09:58for every job that immigrants take more jobs are created that is the very nature of economic growth if you don't have immigrants coming into the country like the United States for example where that native born labor force would shrink I know the more now as baby boomers are
00:10:16retiring and and so on unless you fill those slots with immigrant workers you're going to end up reducing economic growth and reducing the number of jobs by bringing immigrants who are themselves consumers when they get a job and they get their paycheck they go and buy groceries day
00:10:34by car the day by house they they are consumers and as they consume different items they are adding extra the man to the economy which ends up creating more jobs in the areas where they're spending your smoking here at the macro level and I think right the most
00:10:52the studies show that the macro level at the larger level there is a net benefit of immigration here but but isn't it also true that for some American workers where %HESITATION immigrants tend to work there is competition and there is some impact on wages in those industries is
00:11:11that is that is on the idea or is that in fact true well that that latter part is partially true %HESITATION just in the last couple of years the National Academy of sciences commission to major volumes that sought to assemble all of what is known about the social
00:11:28integration of immigrants and the economic and fiscal integration and effects of immigration in the United States that second volume on economic and fiscal consequences shows %HESITATION partly what you're saying immigration is a net positive for the US economy overall it increases jobs increases economic growth %HESITATION it if
00:11:52it is is certainly yeah shores up this particular industries that didn't out of jobs at the native born don't want to take out that are heavily dependent on immigrant labor it is only among natives with less than a high school education where you see that competitive effect that
00:12:12can bring wages down at that low level but in general the only negative contributions to wages that the national kind of means health sciences found was a negative effect on some other immigrants and on the native born with less than a high school education and even that effect
00:12:30is very small is that something we should be concerned about I think the United States should be concerned about a lot of more significant items S. begin with something that is fundamental to economic growth and to the economic consequences of immigration and that's the demography of the country
00:12:52without immigration the United States would have a E. creasing population %HESITATION the race of fertility would are would be below replacement level if it were not for immigration S. as they are in every single country in Europe and Japan and South Korea and song countries with below replacement
00:13:14level fertility are countries that have a declining size of population and as a result they have a declining number of people in the labor market and as a result of that they would have with the declining economic growth the only way to make up to replenish what is
00:13:33not being replenished by native fertility is through the immigration of young workers %HESITATION that is what makes the situation of the United States going forward looking to the future both in demographic projections and economic projections much %HESITATION Rosier than the projections that we're seeing for these other countries
00:13:53that I mention in Europe Japan and saw %HESITATION the it is projected that over the next forty years the lion's share of the growth of the labor force of the United States will be filled by immigrant workers and in fact the lion share their work they send their
00:14:10children yes yeah well these are adult workers now don't workers also have children and we can then consider that the facts of the children of immigrants and what are the economic effects of that %HESITATION and I study that for decades and I mean I can discuss that %HESITATION
00:14:26separately but looking just at adult foreign born in the labor force the United States today and going forward if it with baby boomers retiring by eighteen thousand a day and that will continue for the next several years about ten more years of %HESITATION of this %HESITATION did native
00:14:44born labor force is shrinking is shrinking because of retirement on the on the one hand and a shrinking because of %HESITATION below replacement fertility on the on the younger and %HESITATION immigrants tend to be young intrepid people risk takers ambitious they're looking for opportunities and when they come
00:15:04and take them they revitalize and expand the pa the expand the economy of the United States because the risk takers %HESITATION it is the case that many more immigrants and the larger percentage of immigrants are self employed entrepreneurs then are the native born and the self employed create
00:15:24new jobs by by the end of creating new businesses FG entrepreneurs have an even higher rate of entrepreneurship than regular immigrant %HESITATION in trouble Norris who in turn have higher rates of self employment than the native born all of these are ways in which immigrants and refugees contribute
00:15:42economically to the expansion and the economic growth of the United States it is also fairly frequently stated or believe that the immigrants coming to the country basically from Mexico or other Latin American countries speaking Spanish don't learn English don't do well in school have higher dropout rates N.
00:16:02Anil timidly are a drag on the country in their neighborhoods heavily is that another is on the idea %HESITATION that's a doozy of a some the idea in fact %HESITATION that idea goes back to Benjamin Franklin in seventeen fifty one twenty five years before he signed the declaration
00:16:21of independence he was saying the same thing about Germans in Philadelphia that they were going to Germanized them instead of us angle flying at them and so on that perception of cultural threat that they didn't the foreigners are not going to learn our customs our language our ways
00:16:39our culture has been as perennial as anything else in the American experience %HESITATION but it is simply close the fact of the matter is that more than any other country in the world the United States has the dubious reputation for being a language Gravier this is a country
00:16:59to which languages come to die do not ironically the United States has absorb more multi lingual people than any other country in the world and yet in no other country has a switch to monolingual English occur as rapidly as it has in the United States the general pattern
00:17:16of a hundred years ago remains the same as today the adult first generation immigrants learn to speak English with an accent or survival English their children this second generation %HESITATION learn English without an accent %HESITATION they come to pre ferret and to use it much more proficiently much
00:17:38more quickly than they do the language of their parents and by the third generation the generation of the grand children in three generation households you have situations where the grandparents can I speak with the grand children because they're speaking different languages M. our data show and the and
00:17:54by our data I mean research that I have done for it since the nineteen eighties systematically nationally and regionally and locally shows that %HESITATION language learning is a function of age of arrival the younger the person is arrival the more quickly they learn English lender without an accident
00:18:15in fact if they are if they're right before puberty they will learn without an accent and the younger they are it is just astonishing how quickly almost as if by osmosis a child can pick up a new language it's much more difficult for an adult the older the
00:18:31adult %HESITATION the more difficult it is to learn the language with an accent but they they learn I mean English is the language of the United States and a universal language in the world and you might even make the case that English is the de facto language of
00:18:49the Milky Way galaxy at this point %HESITATION the idea that immigrants somehow posed a threat to English is laughable %HESITATION immigrants come having no illusions about the fact that getting ahead in the United States means also learning English specially for their children what about educational performance for the
00:19:08facts on that education is a fascinating area when it comes to immigration the most highly educated people in the United States are immigrants the least educated people in the United States are also immigrants now their children %HESITATION will attend %HESITATION American schools %HESITATION often especially those who were
00:19:29young at born abroad and they came here young may have problems with English in the first couple of years of school but they catch up very quickly language wise by the time they're in secondary schools %HESITATION we have been doing and study of children of immigrants %HESITATION lunge
00:19:45for the past twenty five years and I have also done studies %HESITATION old children rolled in into our unified school district for example the San Diego unified school district or the Miami they'd unified school district and we find that %HESITATION the GPAs of the children of immigrants and
00:20:03of immigrant children are higher than the GPAs of native born children of native parentage children also drop out rates are much lower for children of immigrants and they are for children of natives %HESITATION this continues when you get to hire read as well as so its M. although
00:20:27you'll still find significant differences between those who want to get doctoral degrees another advanced degrees %HESITATION overall if you if you include the adult immigrants and arrival with everyone else the foreign born and the native born have about the same level of %HESITATION educational attainment as far as
00:20:46bachelor's degrees or higher a concern however immigrants have a much higher rate of people who have less than a high school education and those tend to be adults who come as laborers often undocumented from countries like Mexico us a lot about the my loan Doris %HESITATION who tend
00:21:06to be young young man %HESITATION who come without having Phoenicia secondary schooling in the countries of origin so let me just say you're saying that the immigrants may be lower on the socioeconomic status data but will still in the end have the same rates of college graduation as
00:21:26native born %HESITATION in many cases in the children of immigrants not so much the immigrants although again if you look at immigrants as first generation of those arrival you have immigrants that come from places like India and Taiwan in Nigeria that have much higher levels of educational attainment
00:21:44than the than average for the United States %HESITATION if you look at the children of the immigrants with the ball in the United States arrived here at an early age you will see %HESITATION in that that second generation %HESITATION those children of immigrants surpassing the educational attainment of
00:22:03the children of native born parents M. that tends to plateau after after the second generation so by the time you get to the third generation he begins to be had to look more and more like the norm for American society as a whole but in the first generation
00:22:20there's no doubt especially among children of less educated immigrant parents of very significant %HESITATION upward mobility educational upward mobility among those children the children of those who come with PH dis and so on well there's no way they can surpass their parents educationally so you'll at at best
00:22:39you'll see those children almost matching the the the level of education of those very highly skilled professional paths of president trump's statement that we open with here was was the %HESITATION seem to say that immigrants adversely change the culture of the United States arguments you'd making about educational
00:22:59attainment and learning English seem to be in a similar Tory %HESITATION then simulation a story they but but he's making a comment about cultural change what's your response to that but when he talks about culture in broad terms he never defines what he means by culture what part
00:23:18of American culture is being adversely affected by immigrants if you break it down and you look at every conceivable segment of American culture if you look at art you look at music if you look at academia you look at science if you look at the scientific %HESITATION contributions
00:23:34if you look at Nobel prizes in the end not last year but the two years before that six do next is one six Nobel prizes in each year and all of them were won by immigrants residing in the United States demerits contribute %HESITATION creativity in all kinds of
00:23:52ways to literature for example the the the novels and the memoirs and and %HESITATION the the books are written typically by what I'd long ago called the one and a half generation of children who are being born in another country but came as children to the United States
00:24:08they tend to be the most bilingual the most fluent in both the language of of the three of origin and and %HESITATION English the most playful and creative with date with words and they have proved and made tremendous contributions to American literature remind you you're painting a very
00:24:27rosy picture here that immigrants are more entrepreneurial they %HESITATION they win Nobel prizes they all learn English they commit fewer crimes it they're they're no downsides here too to immigration that we should be concerned about that social policy should be addressing %HESITATION not not not at all I
00:24:48began looking at those %HESITATION examples because %HESITATION we began this conversation talking about some of the ideas that deserved to die but refused to die despite the evidence that can be Marshall against it and I was producing some examples of the evidence that coming Marshall against that %HESITATION
00:25:07immigration in the United States immigration in any country in the world needs to be looked at very seriously for all of this multiple consequences %HESITATION and among those consequences is how immigration affects %HESITATION social conflict in the United States politics in the United States what is the backlash
00:25:29to the reaction of natives to immigrants that come at different times for different reasons %HESITATION and you have to look very seriously at the at that **** also a consequence it is not a consequence that is brought by the immigrants themselves as such it is rather a consequence
00:25:48of the relationship between the encounter of immigrants and natives on the one hand immigrants are absolutely needed for demographic and economic reasons as I've tried to to spell out %HESITATION in addition immigrants do not pose a threat to the language of the of the society to the culture
00:26:09in that sense of of of the society but on the other hand %HESITATION just look at what's been going on in the current period the level of divisiveness the level of %HESITATION scapegoating and stereotyping of immigrants that has cost breaches among Americans %HESITATION even within the same families
00:26:30of people at a something is it is the level of discord and division that I haven't seen since the time of the Vietnam War %HESITATION and a lot of that is has to do with the way in which moral panics have been spread and about immigrants in have
00:26:46by the way immigrants have been scapegoated and by the reactions of natives to that and by the way that then shakes %HESITATION immigration policy and other policies in the United States in militarized as the border it affects the the way people in the proceeding of immigrants %HESITATION and
00:27:04it's going to take %HESITATION is gonna take there is a very significant change to turn this around did with and I consider that an adverse consequences so on the but by calling these ideas on the ideas ideas that won't die it sounds like they in fact are impervious
00:27:22to the fax you and men and others have talked about the facts you described in the last few minutes here of but but these are some that is they they keep keep coming back how do you beat izombie idea well again the zombie movies you have to keep
00:27:40trying until you kill the zombie idea for good or at least for the next long while %HESITATION zombie ideas cannot be debated with simply with facts they have to be defeated and they have to be defeated politically in the most %HESITATION important first since you cannot defeat it
00:28:05by having a notepad in The New York Times or by writing a book or by saying %HESITATION look at the crime rates are the opposite of what president trump says president trump says that murder rates increased forty seven percent in the country when in fact they had decreased
00:28:21by fifty percent and to the lowest level in fifty years you can debate that you can put that in the news program but that's not going to affect a zombie idea that is fact free but fear based so you have to mobilize against that you have to organize
00:28:40against it politically you have to vote you have to use the ballot for that you have to make your ideas count you have to persist and persist and persist not by coming up with zombie ideas of your own to hurl at the at the opponent but but to
00:28:59persist in the commitment and the belief that truth and fact will win the day you think that some will find a way to defeat the zombie do you think that some advocates for immigrants are creating their own kind of zombie ideas that are not helpful to the discussion
00:29:18what is not helpful to the discussion is when you start trying to demonize the other side because of their zombie ideas and you dismiss them you don't hear them you you refused to %HESITATION enter into a conversation with them at that point a wall emerges a real wall
00:29:39not the wall that they're talking about of that the Mexican border but a rule between entire segments of American society you cannot defeat zombie ideas with walls between large segments of the society you have to engage them in conversation you have to listen to their fears and then
00:30:01try to ameliorate those fears %HESITATION there's a lot of evidence that you can bring to bear on the as far as the fears about crime and about language and so on %HESITATION but I think it is possible to reach a point where you can restore that kind of
00:30:20civil conversation again and get to a point where a policies based on foot on commonly shared fax on commonly shared truth you may have different political interests are different political values but at least we can agree on fax if we get to that point I think you can
00:30:40ultimately defeat zombie idea it doesn't mean that one political party is going to win or another political party it means that we're going to restore civil society to a place that is not at at this moment when that now I'm a little confused because I thought you said
00:30:54the definition of a zombie ideas one that is impervious to facts that it can't be changed %HESITATION so how do you get to the point where you can have that kind of civil discussion and someone can say well I guess I was wrong about crime rate had had
00:31:08we ever get there I thought you were making was one of politics that we simply have to vote those folks out of office not that we're gonna do this through civil discourse zombie ideas don't exist in a vacuum they don't just float around in there once in awhile
00:31:28they reappear %HESITATION zombie ideas are products of concrete historical moments and concrete he's is darker moments in which those kinds of ideas are appropriated by demagogues essentially an amplified by mass media to create a moral panic and at that point they ate it isn't that fertile ground that
00:31:53zombie ideas can grow out so it's not that you're trying to defeat the idea per se you're trying rather to deal with the grounds the fertile grounds that lead to the creation of opportunities for demagogues than others to spread these kinds of %HESITATION moral panics by scapegoating immigrants
00:32:13and the like that is up in the playbook of of %HESITATION demagogues going back a long time it is not different in now but I'm not trying to say this zombie idea somehow exist independently of human will and intention or independently of human history their products of it
00:32:34and they need to be engaged as such so let let me end with this or are you hopeful about the future on issues of immigration this is just one of those explosions of anti immigrant feelings that seems to come to the United States every generation or two and
00:32:52this will pass or do you think were appointed is really quite dangerous and continue to spiral down for for some time well I was born in another country and %HESITATION one typical characteristic of immigrants is that they're hopeful there may be issues you have to be hopeful and
00:33:13you have to be ambitious if you leave your country behind your language behind everything behind to start from scratch or as my father once put it from below scratch which is how he felt that that we were we started from so you you I begin with that kind
00:33:26of %HESITATION but I'm also a sober observer of American history of immigration history across all of these %HESITATION two hundred plus years of of of experiences with immigrants and as you say it is the case that they are very significant instances in which these kinds of %HESITATION almost
00:33:49near pogroms whether race against the Irish with the know nothings again that the Chinese exclusion again so many others along the way the Mexican repatriation of the nineteen thirties and what is going on today %HESITATION so yes this current period %HESITATION has many characteristics that are like to
00:34:09some of the worst yes in I can count on one hand the time that the worst kinds of instances %HESITATION %HESITATION for a anti immigrant mobilization and so on in American history that we are seeing at this moment I think the present era will go down as one
00:34:28of the most shameful in American history and in American immigration history but at the same time I'm quite confident and I am quite hopeful that it will end that this too shall pass and that it shall pass sooner than we think I do so because I can read
00:34:47the demographic tea leaves I can read what the projections are for economic growth for demographic growth and so on I do so because I live in a state California %HESITATION that I think provides the ultimate example of what to be hopeful about no other state not even close
00:35:08has absorb more immigrants that has California in the last %HESITATION thirty forty years it has been transformed by immigration %HESITATION virtually every city every part of California has been transformed has California been %HESITATION rule by crime wave that these immigrants bring these refugees from Laos and Cambodia from
00:35:32Mexico from Cuba etcetera has the economic situation of Californians gun in the tank does no one speak English anymore in California on the country California is now the fifth largest economy in the world if it were a separate country California has the lowest rates of violent crime and
00:35:54property crime just about in its history exactly the opposite you would expect and ask for a culture rating to American ways and %HESITATION eating kosher brewery dose in Los Angeles %HESITATION and listening to my the axes music on the radio at that is being done by English speaking
00:36:18without an accent new Californians and the the children's %HESITATION that have contributed mightily to to California and to the miracle that California has become %HESITATION in the in the last twenty years or so California has made it quite significant turnaround and that's despite the fact that that that
00:36:41more than half of the entire population of forty million Californians are either immigrants or their chill Rubin from bouts thank you so much for being with us fastening thank you so much you have been listening to Tempest tossed a production of the sober institute on migration and ability
00:36:59at the new school technical assistance is provided by so hill on sorry Dutch one twelve teams were composed by either lightly because we would welcome your comments and suggestions for future episodes you can reach us at tossed Tempest at G. email dot com that is tossed Tempest all
00:37:19one word at G. mail dot com

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