Breitbart’s Fake News on Immigration

The conservative Breitbart news blog in the United States has assumed uncommon importance although its former executive chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, appears to be in a turf war with President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that could result diminishing his power. It is regularly cited as a source by President Trump.

Breitbart continues to deliver stories that are faked to provide an agenda for the White House, which should be of deep concern to the Asian community, which over the past decade has become the fastest-growing community in the United States according to the Center for American Progress, and whose members face some of the longest backlogs for visas of any immigrant group. The Immigration and Nationality Act caps visas at 26,000 for any single country. Consequently, countries with the highest family- and employer-sponsored visas have to wait years before reuniting with their families.

It was Bannon who designed Trump’s draconian ban on immigration, which has been stymied by the courts. And reading reports that two recent stories were based on, which can be found here and here, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that Breitbart was cherrypicking the facts to create stories that seek to influence the national dialogue on immigration.

The first story, on April 10, cites US government statistics showing that 61 percent of all arrests in US border jurisdictions made by federal authorities in 2014 were foreigners, a “massive increase in the prominence of immigration-related offenses in federal law enforcement” although in fact that number was down by 12 percent in 2013. What the story glides over is that more than half of those arrests were for illegal entry into the United States, illegal re-entry or trafficking in illegal immigrants – 81,881, down from 96,374 in 2013. In fact they were people merely trying to get into the US illegally. Of total arrests in 2014, 3,018 were for violent crimes – 1.9 percent of the total, and there is no indication how many of those violent arrests were of foreigners.

Or take, for example, a Breitbart story from Sept. 21, 2016, by Neil Munro, on the costs to the taxpayer of illegal immigration into the United States. The story quotes a 509-page study by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine that, according to Breitbart, says “Mass immigration is pushing huge costs on to state taxpayers for schooling, crime and welfare,” with each immigrant costing state and local taxpayers roughly US$1,600 more per year than the immigrant generates in taxes. That, Breitbart interprets the National Academies report to say, “adds up to $57.4 billion per year, much of which is paid by state and local taxpayers.”

In fact, in a report that was overwhelmingly favorable on the subject of immigration, Breitbart zeroed in on an obscure table on page 349 that supposedly says “taxpayers must put aside $231,000 in a 3 percent interest-paying account to fund 75 years of future spending on healthcare, education for the immigrants’ children and much else, whenever a low-skilled immigrant crosses the border.”

The study itself acknowledges that there is a net burden for state and local governments from immigration, saying that “first generation adults plus their dependents tend to be more costly to state and local governments on a per capita basis than adults (plus their dependents) in the second or third-plus generations.”

But the report goes on to say that while the total annual fiscal impact of first-generation adults and their dependents, averaged across 2011-13, is indeed a cost of $57.4 billion, second and third-plus generation adults create a net benefit of US$30.5 billion and US$223.8 billion, respectively, meaning migants overall provide a net benefit of U$196.9 billion to the US economy.

“By the second generation, descendants of immigrants are a net positive for the states as a whole, in large part because they have fewer children on average than do first generation adults and contribute more in tax revenues than they cost in terms of program expenditures.”

Overall, according to a news release accompanying the report, the National Academies conclude:

  • When measured over a period of 10 years or more, the impact of immigration on the wages of native-born workers overall is very small. To the extent that negative impacts occur, they are most likely to be found for prior immigrants or native-born workers who have not completed high school—who are often the closest substitutes for immigrant workers with low skills.

  • There is little evidence that immigration significantly affects the overall employment levels of native-born workers. As with wage impacts, there is some evidence that recent immigrants reduce the employment rate of prior immigrants. In addition, recent research finds that immigration reduces the number of hours worked by native teens (but not their employment levels).

  • Some evidence on inflow of skilled immigrants suggests that there may be positive wage effects for some subgroups of native-born workers, and other benefits to the economy more broadly.

  • Immigration has an overall positive impact on long-run economic growth in the US.

  • In terms of fiscal impacts, first-generation immigrants are more costly to governments, mainly at the state and local levels, than are the native-born, in large part due to the costs of educating their children. However, as adults, the children of immigrants (the second generation) are among the strongest economic and fiscal contributors in the US population, contributing more in taxes than either their parents or the rest of the native-born population.

  • Over the long term, the impacts of immigrants on government budgets are generally positive at the federal level but remain negative at the state and local level — but these generalizations are subject to a number of important assumptions. Immigration’s fiscal effects vary tremendously across states.

Certainly, the Asian population is anything but a drag on American society. Asian immigrants owned 1.5 million businesses, according to the latest Census, with sales and receipts of US$506 billion. Asian migrant consumers hold the fastest-growing buying power share—also known as spendable income after taxes—of any racial or ethnic group in the country. The Selig Center at the University of Georgia’s Terry School of Business estimates that the cumulative buying power of Asian immigrants grew from $274 billion in 2000 to more than $700 billion in 2013.

To Breitbart , “…(W)henever four unskilled immigrants from Central America get residency, Americans have to put aside almost $1 million to pay their costs over the next 75 years. Since 2012, President Barack Obama has allowed roughly 400,000 migrants from Central America into the United States to seek Green Cards. Only a tiny percentage has been sent home.”

While acknowledging that “some states make a slight profit per immigrant, partly because of lower welfare benefits, and partly because their state’s inflow is so low that it does not displace many local workers,” Breitbart says, the “cost of adding diversity to California adds up to US$19 billion a year, while Texans must pay US$9.8 billion.”

The Breitbart story acknowledges the “modest surplus of $30.5 billion per year for state and local taxpayers” from second-generation immigrants but ignores the third-generation surplus of US$238 billion.

This is where the President of the United States gets his news, and this is where his erstwhile chief advisor supplies it, whether or not he is soon out the White House door.