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Immigration Law Myths Debunked: Separating Fact from Fiction

by Dhriti

What is a Myth?

A myth is an idea that many people believe, but that is actually false or only partly true. To that end, there are many myths and misunderstandings about immigration law. This article will explain some of the common myths and provide accurate facts.

Myth: Undocumented Immigrants Don’t Pay Taxes

This is false. Many undocumented immigrants pay income taxes and property taxes. They usually get a Taxpayer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service so they can pay taxes on what they earn, even though they are not eligible for most public benefits. They also pay sales taxes and taxes on property, like rent or vehicles. So they do contribute tax money to federal, state and local governments.

Myth: Most Undocumented Immigrants Enter the U.S. Illegally Across the Mexican Border

Research shows that up to half of undocumented immigrants actually entered the U.S. legally at first, often by plane or cruise ship, but then overstayed their visas. So border security measures like walls or fences would not prevent overstays or address that cause of undocumented immigration. This myth also promotes harmful stereotypes.

Myth: Children Born in the U.S. to Undocumented Parents Are Not Citizens

Actually, the 14th Amendment grants U.S. citizenship to almost all people born on American soil. This applies whether the parents are citizens, permanent residents, or undocumented. Sometimes called “anchor babies”, their citizenship can eventually help undocumented parents and family obtain legal status – but only once those children turn 21 years old.

A related myth is that an undocumented mother can automatically obtain permanent legal status because of having a U.S. citizen child. This concept, sometimes called “piggybacking”, is false. While under certain conditions an unmarried undocumented parent of a U.S. citizen child 21 or older may be able to qualify to get a green card eventually, there is unfortunately no automatic or immediate legal status granted to parents solely because of having a U.S. citizen child born in the U.S. Discussing particular situations with knowledgeable immigration lawyers can help clarify what options may or may not exist.

Myth: Seeking Asylum is Easy or Allowed for Economic Reasons 

According to the professionals at immigration law firm Graham Adair, seeking asylum in the U.S. is actually exceedingly difficult. People fleeing threats in their home country must prove they face persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, or membership in a “particular social group” – not merely for economic issues. Meetings with San Jose immigration attorneys are needed to prepare an asylum application with necessary documentation and evidence, and even to determine if seeking asylum is appropriate or allowable.

Myth: Undocumented Immigrants Can Simply Get in Line for Legal Status

There is often no “line” or legal pathway for undocumented immigrants to get lawful permanent residence (a green card). Only certain categories of immigrants are allowed to apply, mainly close family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Waiting for years as a child ages out or a family member passes away is common. Without the help of an immigration lawyer to identify potential options, many undocumented immigrants remain stuck without a way to legalize their status.


As this overview of key myths shows, immigration law and policies are far more complex than most people realize. Seeking accurate information instead of making assumptions is important, as is consulting qualified immigration attorneys if you have questions or need legal help on any immigration or citizenship matters. Relying on myths leads to misunderstandings and harmful, unjust treatment of immigrant communities. Learning the facts leads to more thoughtful, ethical, and constructive approaches to immigration in America.

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