Recently my wife and youngest son were riveted to live images on his laptop of my eight month old granddaughter crawling around on a living room floor pausing occasionally to pull herself on furniture to explore stuff. Although her 9 year old brother was preoccupied in another room, the baby’s 8 year old sister pranced in and out of the screen smiling and waving at us. Like us, their proud mom and dad – my daughter-in-law and son – could be heard laughing and relishing these precious moments.
And for a few seconds later, I conjured up recent images of those immigrant kids on the southern border literally caged up like animals and separated from their parents. Unlike for us – and the majority of native born citizens of the United States – those precious moments are few and far between for those parents.
Okay – before reading further, think on the aforementioned two paragraphs for a few moments from your perspective as a parent and/or grandparent with your loved ones in mind.
Now in Part 1 in this series you met “Nadia” and “Gilberto,” wife and husband in a mixed status marriage. As reported, after years of fighting through the immigration morass and the constant fear of deportation, they finally decided to pack up and relocate to the relative safety of Winnipeg, Canada. In this installment, we’ll broaden the context and explore the size and scope of the immigration issue then deep dive further into the health and financial costs on the families in mixed status marriages.
Size and Scope of the Issue: Most people have heard the statistics. Depending on who you ask, there are approximately 11.5 million undocumented individuals living within the borders of the United States.
Who are these immigrants?
- 59% come from Mexico
- 15% come from South and Central America
- 10% come from Asian countries
- 47% are female
- Only about 50% of the undocumented immigrants who are currently in the U.S. “snuck” across the U.S./Mexico border.
- There are less undocumented immigrants living in the U.S than there were at the peak of undocumented immigration
- 9 million people live in mixed-status situations where there is one undocumented adult and at least one citizen child.
- More than 5 million children live with at least one undocumented parent.
- More than 4 million U.S. citizen children live with at least one undocumented parent
Health and Financial Consequences
- The adult who is left behind often experiences poorer health and will likely have a shorter life span
- The children of the undocumented immigrant have increased anxiety and worry about whether their parents will be able to get back together or stay together in the future
- Parents are less likely to become involved at the children’s schools, which has a negative effect on the educational outcome of children
- Since undocumented workers are more likely to have high-stress, low-wage jobs, there is an increased stress level at home and can often cause lower cognitive skills in their children
- It can be very difficult for undocumented teenagers living in a household where their siblings are U.S. citizens, especially as they begin to want to work, drive and go to college. They find that they are unable to do the things that their siblings are legally allowed to do.
- Even among those undocumented immigrants who manage to “beat the odds” and obtain a college degree, or even an advanced degree, most are not working in their field and are earning a much lower wage than their peers with equal academic achievement.
The Risk of Separation Is Real
Okay, think on what’s been written here for a few moments from your perspective as a parent and/or grandparent with your loved ones in mind. Collect your thoughts. Jot down any eye-openers.
NEXT: In PART 3 of this series, “Nadia” will provide a candid look at her daily life in a mixed-status household and the impacts on their work and school and in social situations. (Note: “Gilberto” respectfully declined to offer his perspective).
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