Undocumented Immigrants Remain At Under 12 Million, Have More Children, New Study Says

By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor

Undocumented immigrants in the United States are more geographically dispersed than in the past, they make up over 5% of the nation’s labor force and are more likely than U.S.-born residents or legal immigrants to live in a household with children, a new report says.

The study, published on Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center, also says that “the recent rapid growth in the undocumented immigrant labor force has come to a halt.” The undocumented population has stayed at about 11.9 million or 4% of the country’s population.

A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United StatesThe Center, which has been studying the size and growth of the undocumented population for years, estimates that it grew rapidly between 1990 and 2006, but it has since stabilized.

Now, “unauthorized immigrants are 4% of the nation’s population and account for 5.4% of its workforce,” the report’s authors, Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn wrote.

Figures on the size of the undocumented population are especially important now, as Washington D.C. appears about to embark on a renewed debate over immigration reform.  It’s likely that both pro-immigration advocates and immigration restrictionists will try to use the numbers to bolster their arguments.

According to the Pew study, the children of the undocumented, both foreign- and U.S.-born, make up 6.8% of the elementary and secondary student population in the country.

“A growing share of the children of unauthorized immigrant parents –73%– were born in this country and are U.S. citizens,” the authors wrote.

The report also notes that,

About three-quarters (76%) of the nation’s unauthorized immigrants are Hispanic. The majority of undocumented immigrants (59%) are from Mexico. Significant regional sources of unauthorized immigrants include Asia (11%), Central America (11%), South America (7%), the Caribbean (4%) and the Middle East (less than 2%).

The undocumented population has moved to non-traditional locations in recent times — decreasing California’s share of it from 42% in the ’90s to 22% today. The southeast has attracted many immigrants, the Center’s vice president Paul Taylor said at a press conference, according to Spanish wire service Agencia Efe.

“It’s a different image, it’s not the lone man waiting at the corner to be offered a job,” Taylor said. “Only a fourth of the total of the undocumented are single men, most are families with kids.”

The report also notes that a third of the children, and a fifth of adults, in undocumented immigrant families live in poverty, Efe reported.

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