Nearly one-third of families headed by illegal aliens have children who are U.S. citizens, according to a new study that also found that since the 1990s, more foreigners have entered the U.S. illegally than legally.
“The large number of U.S. citizen children born to parents with no legal status highlights one of the thorniest dilemmas in developing policies to deal with the unauthorized population,” said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, which produced the report based on the 2004 Current Population Survey, a project of the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As Congress and President Bush debate creating a guest-worker program for foreign workers, one key question is whether those workers could bring their families.
Mr. Bush has said he supports letting such workers bring their families, but others oppose that because it raises the possibility of so-called “anchor babies,” citizen children who are later allowed to petition for legal status for other family members.
The president has also called for a broad immigration plan that lets families remain together, which would make it almost impossible to deport illegal aliens who have children who are U.S. citizens.
Of 6.3 million illegal alien families in the United States in 2004, 59 percent had no children. Another 24 percent had only U.S. citizen children, 10 percent had children who were not U.S. citizens and another 7 percent had some children who were U.S. citizens and some who were not.
The Pew study shows a complex picture of illegal aliens, including that illegal alien men are more likely to be in the work force than U.S.-born men, while illegal alien women are substantially less likely to be working than U.S.-born women.
The study found that of the foreign-born population who came to the United States after 1995, more were illegal than legal as of 2004.
It also says that of the 10.3 million illegal aliens here in 2004, 5.9 million or 57 percent are Mexican, and another 2.5 million or 24 percent are from other Latin American countries.
The numbers appear to show that while the annual flow of illegal aliens has fallen slightly since 2000, the number of Mexicans crossing illegally appears to have increased. Of the Mexicans here illegally in 2004, 2.4 million, or 485,000 a year, came between 2000 and 2004. By comparison, the number was 400,000 per year who came between 1995 and 1999.
But the report’s author, demographer Jeffrey S. Passel, wrote that this doesn’t prove an increase in the annual illegal Mexican migration, because all the figures are a 2004 snapshot and thus would not include aliens who came here from 1995 to 1999 who have returned home or gained legal status.
Mr. Passel found that recent illegal aliens on average actually have a higher education level than those who have been in the United States for a decade or more.
But that was flipped for average family income, where illegal aliens in the United States for less than 10 years have an average family income of $25,700 and those who arrived more than 10 years ago average $29,900. Both lag far behind the average for native-born families, at $47,700, and even further behind legal immigrant families, which average $47,800.
Illegal aliens also make up a larger share of the labor force in jobs that don’t require credentialing, the report found: A quarter of the meat and poultry workers, dishwashers, and drywall and ceiling tile installers in the country are illegal aliens.
Steven A. Camarota, director of research at the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Immigration Studies, said the occupation breakdown shows why there is not more pressure on elected officials to crack down on illegal migration.
“The people who are harmed by it are the least politically influential,” he said. “If journalists and lawyers faced the job competition janitors do, we’d be much more likely to do something about this.”