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Kids of illegal immigrants more likely to live in poverty

Study says kids born in U.S. face greater odds

WASHINGTON – Growing numbers of children of illegal immigrants are being born in this country, and they are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty than those with American-born parents, an independent research group says.

The study released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center highlights a growing dilemma in the immigration debate: Illegal immigrants’ children born in the United States are American citizens, yet they struggle in poverty and uncertainty along with parents who fear deportation, toil largely in low-wage jobs and face layoffs in an ailing economy.

The analysis by Pew, a nonpartisan research organization, estimated that 11.9 million illegal immigrants lived in the U.S. as of March 2008. Of those, 8.3 million, or 5.4 percent of the U.S. labor force, worked primarily in lower-paying farm, construction or janitorial work.

Roughly 3 out of 4 of their children – or 4 million – were born in the U.S. In 2003, 2.7 million children of illegal immigrants, or 63 percent, were born in this country.

“One of the most striking features is that it is a population largely made up of young families,” said Jeffrey Passel, an author of the report. “This is a different picture than we usually see of undocumented immigrants – of young (single) men, the day laborers on street corners.”

Children of illegal immigrants hold a delicate place in the U.S.

On the one hand, the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that these children – whether they were U.S. citizens or not – were entitled to a public school education. California and a few other states also provide in-state college tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

At the same time, the immigrants and their families are among the poorest people in the U.S., easily exploited by employers and subject to arrest at any time. Children who are U.S. citizens cannot petition for their parents to become legal U.S. residents until they are at least 21.



• One-third of the children of illegal immigrants live in poverty, nearly double the rate for children of U.S.-born parents.

• The 2007 median household income of illegal immigrants was $36,000, compared with $50,000 for U.S.-born residents.

• About 47 percent of illegal immigrant households have children, compared with 21 percent for U.S.-born residents and 35 percent for legal immigrants.

The Associated Press

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