Expert Commentary

Unauthorized immigrants and their U.S.-born children

2010 report by the Pew Hispanic Center on the characteristics of unauthorized immigrants' families, parenting status and their children.

The U.S. Constitution automatically grants citizenship to those born in the United States whatever the status of their parents. Tensions surrounding immigration have increased over the last decade, however, leading to suggestions that rescinding the automatic right to citizenship would discourage unauthorized immigration.

A 2010 Pew Hispanic Center report, “Unauthorized Immigrants and Their U.S.-Born Children,” examines immigrants in the United States and their children. The report’s key findings include:

  • In 2008, newborns by unauthorized immigrants accounted for 8% of total births in the United States.
  • Nearly 80% of children aged 17 and younger who have at least one unauthorized immigrant parents were born in the U.S. and thus are American citizens.
  • Unauthorized immigrants tend to be younger (median age of 35.5 years old) than U.S.-born citizens (46.3) and legal immigrants (45.9). Legal and unauthorized immigrants are also found to have higher fertility rates compared to U.S.-born citizens.
  • 45% of unauthorized immigrants are couples with children compared with 21% of U.S.-born citizens and 34% of legal immigrants.

The authors note that the purpose of the report is not to discuss the birthright citizenship debate’s merits, but to better understand the characteristics of unauthorized immigrants’ families and parenting status.

Tags: California, children, Hispanic, Latino

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