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One in 10 Texas children has an undocumented parent
By SUSAN CARROLL
Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
April 14, 2009
www.chron.com
A LOOK AT ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS

Key findings in a new detailed Pew Hispanic Center report on the illegal immigrant population in the U.S.

One in five illegal immigrants — and a third of their children — live in poverty, compared with 10 percent of U.S.-born adults.

Among illegal immigrants ages 18 to 24 who have graduated from high school, 49 percent are enrolled in college or have attended college, compared with 71 percent of U.S.-born high school graduates.

The 2007 median household income of unauthorized immigrants was $36,000, well below the $50,000 median household income for U.S.-born Americans. Researchers found that unlike other immigrant groups, those in the country illegally do not attain markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States.

• Among illegal immigrants ages 18 to 24 who have graduated from high school, 49 percent are enrolled in college or have attended college, compared with 71 percent of U.S.-born high school graduates.

• •The 2007 median household income of unauthorized immigrants was $36,000, well below the $50,000 median household income for U.S.-born Americans. Researchers found that unlike other immigrant groups, those in the country illegally do not attain markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States.

The 2007 median household income of unauthorized immigrants was $36,000, well below the $50,000 median household income for U.S.-born Americans. Researchers found that unlike other immigrant groups, those in the country illegally do not attain markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States.

More than half of adult illegal immigrants, roughly 59 percent, had no health insurance during all of 2007.

The report found that the undocumented population had dispersed widely since 1990, with recent and rapid growth in the Southeast.

SOURCE: Pew Hispanic Center

A growing share of the children of illegal immigrants are U.S.-born citizens, illustrating a sensitive, demographic shift in the makeup of America’s undocumented migrant population.

The Pew Hispanic Center released a report Tuesday estimating that about 73 percent of the children of illegal immigrant parents were U.S.-born citizens in 2008, up from roughly 63 percent in 2003. During that time frame, the estimated number of children born in the U.S. to undocumented parents increased from 2.7 million to 4 million. The report estimates that at least one in 10 Texas school children has a parent in the country illegally.

Pew’s estimates were based largely on March 2008 Census Bureau survey data, which was adjusted to account for census undercounting and legal status.

The report’s findings highlight an emotional issue in the immigration debate: mixed status families of undocumented parents and U.S.-born children. High-profile immigration enforcement raids across the country in recent years have generated stories of American school children coming home to find out their parents had been picked up by immigration officials.

The demographic shift will have significant implications through the summer as the immigration reform debate heats back up. Last week, the Obama administration indicated it was gearing up to tackle reform, including creating a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.

“These are American citizens, and we’re rounding up and deporting their parents,” said Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg, calling the overall immigration strategy “totally bankrupt,” and in need of repair.

Advocates for stricter immigration controls also acknowledged the sensitivity of the debate when it comes to the issue of the growing number of citizen children with illegal immigrant parents. Steven Camarota, director for research for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington D.C., said Pew’s data on U.S.-born children “reminds us that the longer that we don’t enforce the law, the more difficult it becomes.”

“The more there are U.S.-born children present, it certainly complicates things, if not as a practical matter ... as a political and emotional matter.”

For example, some anti-illegal immigration groups have proposed eliminating birth-right citizenship for illegal immigrants.

The new Pew report offers a demographic snapshot of the nation’s undocumented population, which researchers said tripled in size from 1990 to 2006, before finally stabilizing at roughly 12 million in 2008.

Texas ranked No. 2 in the country in terms of the size of the illegal immigrant population, with about 1.45 million. The state had a higher proportion of illegal immigrants in the workforce — almost 8 percent in Texas compared with 5.4 percent nationally. The proportion of Texas school children with an undocumented parent was also above the national estimate of one in 15.

One of the report’s key findings — that the undocumented population is made up largely of young, working families — bucks the traditional stereotype of illegal immigrants as day laborers and single men standing on street corners, said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer for the Pew Hispanic Center.

“This is a different picture than we usually see of undocumented immigrants,” Passel said.

Passel estimated that only about a quarter of the nation’s undocumented population is now made up of men without a spouse or children. According to the report, illegal immigrants are far more likely than people born in the U.S. to live with a spouse and children. Some 47 percent of undocumented households involved a couple with a child in 2008, compared with 21 percent of U.S.-born homes, according to the report.

Vanderbilt Sociology Professor Katharine M. Donato said the Pew Center’s findings highlight a marked shift in illegal immigration patterns, which in turn have changed the demographics of the nation’s undocumented population.

Donato said the U.S. immigration system used to be largely cyclical, with workers — legal and undocumented — returning to their home countries on a regular basis, until the massive buildup of agents and infrastructurealong the Southwest border in early 1990s.

Facing more dangerous treks and steeper smuggling fees, many illegal immigrants opted instead to bring their families to the U.S. and settle in here, which accounts for the growth in the share of births in the U.S., she said.

“I think people are really just trying to keep their families together and stay under the radar,” Donato said.

Nancy Uresti, 32, said her family has been reeling since her husband, Pedro Uresti, was ordered to leave the country by an immigration judge in April. The couple, who are both undocumented immigrants from Mexico, have been in the U.S. for more than 18 years and have four U.S.-born children.

Their 9-year-old son seems to be the most affected by the news, she said. “He thinks they’re taking his dad away,” she said. “It’s been really hard.”

She said the family is adjusting to the idea of moving to Mexico, although she worries about how the children would cope.

“We’re just going to see what happens, and hope for the best,” she said.

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