Seven Reasons Why Undocumented Immigrants are Rooted in America

Photo 8-20-2014With immigration legislation now moribund in Congress, all eyes have turned to the White House to see what sorts of non-legislative fixes to the immigration system might be implemented by the Obama administration. While the administration’s deliberations remain private, it is almost certain that one of the fixes being contemplated is the granting of a temporary reprieve from deportation to some of the 11.7 million unauthorized immigrants now living in the United States. Reportedly, the administration’s actions could help parents of U.S. citizens and the parents of young people who received temporary legal status through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to avoid deportation.

In deciding exactly how many unauthorized immigrants deserve to be included in such a policy, it is necessary to get a sense of how many unauthorized men, women, and children have already formed substantial ties to the United States. Answering this question involves overcoming a common misperception that unauthorized immigrants consist, for the most part, of barely literate, single young men and women who have recently crossed the southern border and live solitary lives disconnected from U.S. society. The truth, however, is that unauthorized immigrants include adults and children, mothers and fathers, homeowners and people of faith, most of whom are invested in their communities.

Data from the Census Bureau and other sources paint a relatively detailed portrait of the unauthorized population and reveal the extent to which most unauthorized immigrants have roots in U.S. society. According to a new fact sheet from the American Immigration Council that summarizes this data:

  • Unauthorized immigrants account for roughly 1-in-20 workers in the United States.
  • Three-fifths of unauthorized immigrants have been in the United States for more than a decade.
  • Nearly half of adult unauthorized immigrants live in households with children under the age of 18.
  • Approximately 1 million unauthorized immigrants are children.
  • Roughly 4.5 million native-born U.S.-citizen children have at least one unauthorized parent.
  • Nearly half of longtime unauthorized immigrant households are homeowners.
  • Approximately two-fifths of unauthorized immigrant adults attend religious services every week.

In sum, the majority of unauthorized immigrants are long-time residents of the United States who have already become part of the nation’s social and economic fabric. Most are integrating into U.S. society not only through their jobs, but through their families and communities as well. If this is the measure by which we will judge the worthiness of an unauthorized immigrant to receive a deportation reprieve, then many of the unauthorized immigrants now living in this country would likely qualify.

Photo by Tim Green.


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  • nikki_az0

    So, if I understand this article correctly, undocumented immigrants should be provided a pass on breaking the law because they have families, go to church and own homes? So, if I robbed a bank 7 years ago or murdered someone 20 years ago, I should not have to face the consequences of my actions because I own a home, have a family, belong to my local congregation and am now an active member of my community??? How does that make sense? They knowing broke the law and have continued to do so for years. It’s a complex situation, I agree. But, why should they get a free pass while others fight the system legally for years???

    My husband and I are both second generation american. Our grandparents immigrated here in the 1940′s LEGALLY, to fight on behalf of the United States during WWII. My grandfather and his brother fought in the south pacific-(only my grandfather made it home), while my grandmother worked in factory bolting planes together for the war effort. My husband’s grandfather immigrated LEGALLY from Germany and fought as a U-Boat captain against the Nazis’. It took them years, they learned English and took citizenship classes to gain what they argue was the greatest achievement of their lives. My father met my step-mother while vacationing abroad and even after they were married, it took three years for her to gain her visa- and a lot of paperwork!!!! But, they all did it the correct and legal way because that was the right thing to do- and to them, it was worth the sacrifice to call themselves Americans.

    Why should these people gain a free pass because they cut the line and broke the law? I’m sorry. I am sympathetic to their situation and especially to the children. But no one should be rewarded for breaking the law.