A real image

The national debate on the undocumented is filled with inaccuracies, generalizations, insinuations and stereotypes that hinder a reasonable dialogue to achieve comprehensive immigration reform that considers all aspects of this complex issue. To this end, inflammatory and provocative rhetoric based on negative anecdotes and numbers without rhyme or reason must be set aside.

An example of conflicting impressions is the fact there is talk of a growing number of undocumented immigrants. Some have even exaggeratedly said 20 million, when in reality the trend is decreasing. In 2010, estimates said there were 10.2 million undocumented people in the U.S. This number came from a Pew Hispanic Center report analyzing data and official estimates from the Census Bureau.

Not surprising either: A large majority of the undocumented has lived in this country for at least a decade, including 35% of them for 15 years or more. This challenges the idea that those without papers entered the country recently and do not have roots in the community.

Moreover, the report shows that undocumented workers form families and attend church as part of their normal lives.

This is an inconvenient portrait for politicians who try to make the most of the situation-stigmatizing and frightening others by depicting a poor image of the undocumented. The notion that immigrants without papers are not criminals jeopardizes a false, malicious narrative. Faced with a lack of ideas, these people have proposed massive deportations as an alternative.

The profile of the undocumented emerging from Census data comes closest to the facts that should be taken into account when discussing the immigration issue. This reality cannot be changed through lies or exaggeration.