Today, the non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center, based in Washington, released a report indicating that the number of U.S.-citizen children born to illegal immigrants has dramatically increased over the past five years from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008. The Washington Post writes, “More than a third of such children were in poverty in 2007, compared with about 18 percent of those born to either legal immigrants or U.S.-born parents. Similarly, one in four U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants went without health insurance in 2008, compared with 14 percent of those born to legal immigrants and 8 percent born to U.S.-born parents.”
The analysis by Pew, a nonpartisan research organization, estimated that 11.9 million illegal immigrants lived in the U.S. Of those, 8.3 million were in the labor force as of March 2008, making up 5.4 percent of the U.S. work force, primarily in lower-paying farming, construction or janitorial work.
Roughly three out of four 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.
Overall, illegal immigrants’ children account for one of every 15 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
Illegal immigrants also have become more geographically dispersed, increasingly passing up typical destinations like California in favor of jobs in newly emerging Hispanic areas in Southeastern states like Georgia and North Carolina.
In 2008, California had the most illegal immigrants at 2.7 million, double its 1990 number, followed by Texas, Florida, New York and New Jersey. Still, California’s 22 percent share of the nation’s illegal immigrant population was a marked drop-off from its 42 percent share in 1990.
The latest demographic snapshot comes as President Barack Obama is preparing to address the politically sensitive issue of immigration reform later this year, including a proposal to give illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
Though their numbers have soared over the past two decades, the total number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has declined or remained flat in the last few years. Demographers attribute that to slower rates of migration into the U.S. caused in part by the recession, as well as to deportations and stepped-up immigration enforcement during the Bush administration.
Among the findings:
_One-third of the children of illegal immigrants live in poverty, nearly double the rate for children of U.S.-born parents.
_Illegal immigrants’ share of low-wage jobs has grown in recent years, from 10 percent of construction jobs in 2003 to 17 percent in 2008. They also make up 25 percent of workers in farming and 19 percent in building maintenance.
_The 2007 median household income of illegal immigrants was $36,000, compared with $50,000 for U.S.-born residents. In contrast to other immigrants, illegal immigrants do not earn markedly higher incomes the longer they live in the United States.
_About 47 percent of illegal immigrant households have children, compared with 21 percent for U.S.-born residents and 35 percent for legal immigrants.
_About three-quarters, or 76 percent, of illegal immigrants in the U.S. are Hispanic. The majority came from Mexico (59 percent), numbering 7 million. Other regions included Asia (11 percent), Central America (11 percent), South America (7 percent), the Caribbean (4 percent) and the Middle East (2 percent).