Children of illegals may make up 1 in 7 AZ schoolchildren
Capitol Media Services
April 15, 2009

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By Howard Fischer

Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/288780

PHOENIX About one in seven of the 1.2 million students in Arizona schools is there directly or indirectly due to illegal immigration, a study released Tuesday by the Pew Hispanic Center estimates.

Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer for Pew, figured from 100,000 to 110,000 students are from families in which at least one parent is an illegal immigrant, although the children themselves were born here and are citizens. That's an increase of 20,000 from three years ago.

Additionally, Passel estimates that 60,000 to 65,000 youngsters in Arizona schools are not legal residents, up by from 5,000 to 10,000 from when he did a similar computation in 2005. The report uses estimates. Schools are legally prohibited from inquiring into a student's legal status.

Nationally, the center found illegal immigrants' children account for one of every 15 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The new report also estimates close to 10 percent of Arizona's work force is in the U.S. illegally or at least it was as of March 2008.

Because of when the study was done, Passel said he could not tell what effect, if any, Arizona's employer-sanctions law has had. The law, allowing a judge to suspend the business license of a firm found guilty of hiring an illegal immigrant, took effect at the start of 2008. But county attorneys agreed not to prosecute any cases in the first three months of last year while the law was being challenged. The law has been upheld.

Even before the law took effect, however, the study found the percentage of Arizonans who are in this country illegally appeared to be leveling off.

The center estimated there were about 500,000 Arizona residents in March 2008 who entered the country illegally, acknowledging that the actual number could be anywhere from 475,000 to 550,000. A similar study by the organization in 2005 pegged the state's "unauthorized" population at about 450,000.

In 2000, Pew figured the number of illegal immigrants at just 300,000, and in 1990 the figure was about 90,000.

Overall, the new figures put Arizona's illegal-immigrant population at about 7.9 percent of the total number of people living here.

The report comes on the heels of President Obama saying he intends to make a major push this year to change immigration law, including creating a path to legal status whether citizenship or legal residency for the 500,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona and the estimated 12 million nationwide.

The nationwide study also found:

While there has been a slight decline since 2003 in the number of juveniles who entered the country illegally, there has been a sharp increase in the number of U.S.-born children with at least one parent here illegally, from 2.7 million in 2003 to about 4 million last year.

About 76 percent of illegal immigrants in the U.S. are Hispanic. The majority, about 59 percent, came from Mexico, numbering 7 million. Central and South America combine to contribute about 18 percent.

The median income of households of illegal immigrants was $37,000 per year, compared with $50,000 for U.S.-born residents.

One-third of the children of illegal immigrants live in poverty, nearly double the rate for children of U.S.-born parents.

Among working-age adults, 47 percent of those here illegally lack a high school education, compared with 8 percent of the rest of the population.

Close to half of illegal immigrants ages 18 through 24 are in college or have graduated, versus 71 percent for native born.

About 30 percent of illegal immigrants are employed in service industries, compared with 16 percent of those born in this country.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.