“Survey Defies Illegal Immigrant Stereotypes”

This is the human side of separating families due to immigration status. Who takes care of the children if we deport the parents?

This article by Linda Chavez sheds new light on this very complicated issue.

A new report out last week from the Pew Hispanic Center confirms what many observers already suspected about the illegal immigrant population in the United States: It is made up increasingly of intact families and their American-born children. Nearly half of illegal immigrant households consist of two-parent families with children, and 73 percent of these children were born here and are therefore U.S. citizens.

How does the new population of immigrants hearken to your ancestors and mine? Although the immigrants who graduate high school strive to attain some college education, the reality is that their long term earning “prognosis” is poor indeed.

The greater concern for some opponents of immigration – legal and illegal – is the fear that these newcomers will never fully adapt, won’t learn English, will remain poor and uneducated, and transform the United States into a replica of Mexico or some other Latin American country. The same fears led Americans of the mid-19th century to fear German and Irish immigrants, and in the early 20th century to fear Italians, Jews, Poles, and others from Eastern and Southern Europe.

Such worries are no more rational today – or born out of actual evidence – than they were a hundred years ago. It is true that Hispanic immigrants today take awhile to catch up with the native born just as their European predecessors did, and illegal immigrants never fully do so in terms of education or earnings.

Given the reality of this population, how do we deal with their presence in a humane and fiscally responsible manner?

The fact that so many illegal immigrants are intertwined with American citizens or legal residents, either as spouses or parents, should give pause to those who’d like to see all illegal immigrants rounded up and deported or their lives made so miserable they leave on their own. A better approach would allow those who have made their lives here, established families, bought homes, worked continuously and paid taxes to remain after paying fines, demonstrating English fluency, and proving they have no criminal record. Such an approach is as much about supporting family values as it is granting amnesty.