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They Take Our Jobs!: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration Paperback – June 1, 2007

3.8 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Drawing on immigration history and left-wing economic analysis, historian and immigrants' rights activist Chomsky (Profits of Extermination) aims to debunk the assumptions informing the current immigration debate in this well-researched if stiffly written account. She offers straightforward arguments against anti-immigrant perceptions such as the one in the book's title: the "number of jobs is not finite, it is elastic," Chomsky asserts, pointing out that in the "postindustrial economy," many manufacturing jobs have been replaced by low-paying service jobs. In response to the accusation that "immigrants don't pay taxes," Chomsky notes that textile jobs that were once a part of the "formal sector" are now informal (i.e., they do not offer benefits or collect taxes)—for which she blames the employers. As for immigrants' alleged reluctance to learn English, the author observes that as one generation becomes fluent, new Spanish speakers arrive; she defends non-English speakers by citing the waiting lists for ESL classes and explaining that immigrants with a history as a conquered people (e.g. Mexicans) more stubbornly retain their heritage. Though Chomsky presents an agile blend of the history of race and immigration in the U.S. with current events, the book's format of offering liberal polemics to anti-immigrant questions forces her into a defensive, didactic tone. (July)
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Review

An indispensable guide to the current debate on immigration. If you are at all uncertain about how to deal with anti-immigrant arguments, you will find Chomsky's book a perfect response. She makes her points with clarity and uses unassailable evidence while offering constructive short-and long-term solutions.—Howard Zinn, author of You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train

"You've heard it all before: Immigrants take away jobs from Americans. They drive down wages, don't pay taxes and yet benefit from public services. But as Chomsky demonstrates, these are all myths, if not outright lies. She not only demolishes virtually every myth about immigrants and immigration to the U.S., she offers policymakers and activists solutions for tackling many of the issues created by globalization and an immigration policy grounded in falsehoods, and in so doing destroys the greatest myth of all: that nothing can be done."—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

"Finally, a concise and comprehensive breakdown of the most prevalent misconceptions about immigration. Avi Chomsky provides not only practical ammunition for the pundit wars, but also real thinking about the intersection of migration and the history of race and rights in the U.S. It's the definitive field guide to today's immigration debate."—Tram Nguyen, executive editor of Colorlines magazine and author of We Are All Suspects Now

"Avi Chomsky’s new book, They Take Our Jobs! is a welcome addition to the literature and tools needed to inform the current debate on immigration. In identifying more than 20 "myths" about immigration, the author brings readers through an accessible discussion that includes history, politics, economics and social analysis to challenge these myths and more. At a time when we desperately need to shift the public discourse in the U.S. and elsewhere, to include a more humane and informed perspective on the process of immigration and the lives of migrants and their families, Chomsky’s book provides us all with a much-needed sense of history and justice—and injustice—that must be included as we struggle for fair and humane immigration policies." —Catherine Tactaquin, Executive Director, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (June 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807041564
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807041567
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on December 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
What a timely and important book. Aviva Chomsky takes on what she believes are the 21 most common misperceptions about immigrants. She looks at economic objections such as the claims that immigrants drain the economy, take away jobs and drive down wages; legal ones such as the claim that the U.S. already as a too-generous refugee policy; racial ones such as the claim that immigrants threaten our national identity and won't learn English; and security ones such as the claim that immigrants make us particularly susceptible to terrorist attacks.

The interesting thing about these misperceptions is that they all have a ring of plausibility, and it's to Chomsky's credit that she takes them seriously enough to examine them in detail. Moreover, her examination isn't a simplistic "no, that's wrong" kind of approach. One of the best qualities of her treatment is that she helps the reader to put claims about immigration into a broader context.

For example, Chomsky points out that while it's true that real wages for laborers are dropping in this country, it isn't because immigrants are driving them down. It's because of the last few years' general flow of wealth in the U.S. towards the top, which is leaving almost everyone except the very wealthiest in the lurch. Or what about the misperception that immigrants won't assimilate into our culture and hence are jeopardizing our national identity? Chomsky offers statistics that show that immigrants of color in fact do try to assimilate just as much as white ones, but that assimilation for them is complicated by the fact that it almost always means "downward mobility."

Chomsky's book is clearly written from a progressive viewpoint, and her conclusions, I'm sure, will anger many.
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Format: Paperback
I suppose my main problem with this book comes down to a question of semantics. The book proposes to expose a number of popular statements about immigration as "myths." Although the author accomplishes this in some cases, in others, whether or not the statement is a myth is barely addressed, or not addressed at all.

For example, Myth 19 states that "countries need to control who goes in and out." The author proceeds to fill the chapter with a history of the United States' attemps to control the numbers of racial minorities in the country, particularly by means of sterilization of Native and African Americans and Puerto Ricans(i.e., not immigrants, ironically). I assume the author is implying that #19 is merely and always a smokescreen for racism, neither something that anyone could ever legitimately believe nor something that ever plays any part whatsoever in immigration considerations, because whether countries actually do or do not need to control who goes in and out is never discussed at all. In other words, Chomsky is calling something a myth without actually providing evidence that it is a myth, i.e., not true.

Basically, the author does not intend to prove some ideas as untrue so much as implicitly claim that the ideas are (presumably always) a product of racism and/or the First World's grab for money and power.

A few parts of the book were just ridiculous appeals to emotion - or, I hope that's what is was meant to be, because it certainly did not appeal to logic. At one or two points, Chomsky writes that immigrants are penalized "just for existing." No, they're penalized for existing in an illegal status. Border Patrol or whoever is not going to come after them while they are "existing" outside of its jurisdiction.
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Professor Chomsky of "They Take Our Jobs" posits 21 "myths" about immigration, and then attempts to debunk them. Unfortunately, her cognitive bias, poor logic, and lack of critical thinking eventually undermine her main arguments. This causes the reader to be wary of her other arguments and positions, even though some of them have validity. Her views are clearly clouded by her fixed ideological presumptions about what nation states are and how they should act, by her assumption that all capitalism is bad and necessarily exploitive, and that all workers and poor people are saintly.

She provides many references on racism and its effects on immigration and other laws that casual readers may be unaware of. Our nation's founders thought the definition of "citizen" meant white, male, and property owner because that was the social view of the time. We should all be aware of this knowledge because it provides both historical and current evidence that is helpful in understanding views on immigration, legal or illegal. Chomsky also explains the historical aspects of immigration policy in the United States by citing the ever changing regulations that reflected current thought at the time of each change. As other critics have pointed out, however, she fails to put any of this information in historical perspective. She assumes that whatever racist or political considerations on immigration were operative in the past are necessarily operative today without crediting any attitudinal changes that have occurred.

The author organizes her book into 21 immigration "myths," but some of them are paper tigers that are only listed to be easily swatted down and others that she not only fails to counter, but actually ends up proving that the "myth" is mostly true.
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