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For Children, Immigration Reform is a Poverty Reduction Strategy

by Jacquelyn Mahendra on 12/09/2009 at 4:05pm

kidThe Washington Post has a devastating feature today entitled, “Left behind: A child’s burden,” and subtitled, “An undesirable inheritance.” In it, N.C. Aizenman reports on the diverse ways in which the U.S.-born kids of undocumented Latino immigrants are coping with poverty, as well as the fact that they are two times more likely to face poverty than other American children.

Aizenman reports that a full forty percent of U.S-citizen children of Hispanic immigrants have one parent (at least) who is living in the U.S. without proper legal status, arguing:

Of all the disadvantages that U.S.-born children of Hispanic immigrants might confront, none is more significant than being raised by parents who are in the country illegally.

Forty percent — or 3.3 million of these children — have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant, mostly from Mexico or Central America, according to a recent analysis of census data by demographer Jeffrey S. Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center. And researchers warn that the long-term consequences for the country could be profound.

“The fact that so many in this population face these initial disadvantages has huge implications in terms of their education, their future labor market experience, their integration in the broader society, and their political participation,” said Roberto Gonzales, a professor at the University of Washington who has studied this generation.

The most immediate result has been a substantial increase in the number of American children growing up in poverty. Partly because illegal immigrants tend to have low levels of education and partly because their immigration status makes it harder to move up the job ladder, their U.S.-born children are almost twice as likely to be poor as the children of legal immigrants or native parents, the Pew Hispanic Center found.

The piece quotes America’s Voice Executive Director, Frank Sharry, who argues that, “When you talk about someone who is undocumented, the chances are extremely high that they are in a mixed-status family. . . . Legalization would be one of the best anti-poverty strategies we could employ.”

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