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Myths About the Booming Latino Population in South Carolina

Myth No. 1: Latino immigrants want to move to the United States permanently and will remain here unless they are forced to leave.

According to Dr. Elaine Lacy, research director for the Consortium for Latino Immigration Studies at the University of South Carolina, 60 percent of Mexicans plan to return to Mexico, where they prefer to live. They were in the United States to earn money. Only 28 percent of Mexican immigrants indicated they want to remain in the United States and would do so only if family members were with them.

Myth No. 2: Latino immigrants overuse public benefits and make little economic contribution.

Other than public education, the only other public service utilized was WIC, a Medicaid program available to qualifying families when their children are born in the United States. Only 15 percent of the families interviewed had children born in the U.S., but not all of those qualified for the WIC program.

Myth No. 3: Latino immigrants refuse to learn English and do not want to assimilate into U.S. culture.

Nearly half the respondents said they were making efforts to learn English. One-quarter said they were taking formal English classes, while nearly an additional 25 percent said they were learning from purchased tapes, watching English television and reading English publications. Lacy said 30 percent cited learning the language as the biggest need of the Mexican community.

Myth No. 4: Many immigrants are criminals who have no respect for the law.

Only two of the 181 interviewed reported any problems with law enforcement. Both cases were related to driving without a license. Lacy said many immigrants said they admired Americans for their belief in, and respect, for the law.

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