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.

    • Devonee Trivett

      Many of the immigrants would do the same as your ancestors, Nikki. You say that all of your ancestors did it “the correct and legal way because that was the right thing to do.” RIGHT now many immigrants don’t have a viable legal option and that is what immigration reform is all about, giving them a legal way to become citizens. It’s not about trapping them out of an idea of the way things should be or were at one time. Things were different then, and complex in different ways. Providing immigrants with the option to wait three years and fill out lots of paper work, just as your ancestors did, would be a step in the right direction. We cannot base our decision on what is the right thing to do now on what was in the past. Things are even more complicated now, and there are less options for legal pathways.

      • Devonee Trivett

        So during those three years while your husband’s grandfather’s wife waited for her visa they traveled abroad? Or were they in a state of limbo for three years while they waited? If the first option were true, then bully for them, but most immigrants today do not have the funds to travel abroad and wait in Europe for their visas. If the second option is true, then for three years your husband’s fathers wife lived in a state of limbo where she wasn’t sure for three years if she was going to be legal or not. That’s alot like the situation that immigrants today find themselves in here in America. Either way, I am certain she would advocate for compassion on the part of those seeking a legal option that is unclear at the moment. “Put yourself into others’ shoes instead of being so judgmental,” that’s probably what your husband’s grandmother would tell you after all she went through while immigrating to America. I am sure there were people that were racist to her at the time, much in the way you are being right now. Try not falling into the racist’s footsteps.

    • JPLord1

      How does entering the US to find food and a job or to escape violence and poverty equate to robbing a bank or murdering someone?

  • kay schumacher

    Really nikki…..harden not your heart…sad for you………

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