November 29, 2007

Half of Immigrants in Texas Are Illegal, Report Finds

By BOB DART
Cox News Service
Thursday, November 29, 2007

WASHINGTON — Half of the nearly 3.5 million immigrants living in Texas are in the country illegally, the Center for Immigration Studies says in a report released Thursday.

Based on the latest Census Bureau data, the report said Texas has one of the fastest growing immigrant populations of any state. It said that 50 percent of the state's foreign-born population — slightly more than 1.7 million people — are illegal immigrants. Only Arizona at 65 percent, North Carolina at 58 percent and Georgia at 53 percent had a higher proportion of illegal immigrants in their immigrant populations.

Many people within the undocumented population are unskilled workers and tend to go to states where they can find those types of jobs, explained Flavia Jimenez, a senior policy analyst with the National Council of La Raza, a nonpartisan advocacy group for Hispanic Americans. And many go where there are already family members.

The influx of immigrants into Texas reflects the national trend, the report showed. The nation's immigrant population — legal and illegal — reached a record of 37.9 million in 2007. Nearly one in three of these newcomers is here illegally. Half of the immigrants from Mexico and Central America are in the country illegally and one-third of those from South America are illegal immigrants.

The report documents this surge of new arrivals and describes its impact.

"The last seven years have been the highest period of immigration in American history," the report concluded. "Immigrants and their young children (under 18) now account for one-fifth of the school-age population, one-fourth of those in poverty and nearly one-third of those without health insurance."

Immigration accounts for nearly all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the past two decades, the report said. In 2007, there were 10.8 million school-age children from immigrant families in the United States — about one in five of the nation's school-age kids.

In Texas, 26.7 percent of the school-age (5-17) population had immigrant fathers. About half of these immigrant children — 13 percent of the state's total school age population — were illegal immigrants or the offspring of illegal immigrants.

About one-third of all families nationally headed by an immigrant use at least one welfare program — compared to less than one-fifth for native households, the report said. The percentage in Texas exceeds the national average with 39.2 percent of immigrant households using at least one welfare program compared to 21.1 percent of native households.

"Setting aside the lower socio-economic status of immigrants, no nation has ever attempted to incorporate nearly 38 million newcomers into its society," the report warned.

The report is called "Immigrants in the United States, 2007: A Profile of America's Foreign-Born Population." It was written by Seven Camarota, research director for the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonpartisan think tank that advocates reductions in immigration. The data came from the March 2007 Current Population Survey collected by the Census Bureau.

"There is nothing surprising in the report. These are the same kind of findings we have seen with other research," said Jimenez. "This is further proof that, in our opinion, this country needs to fix its immigration system."

The report said immigrants and their U.S.-born children under the age of 18 now make up 21 percent of Texas' population. Children born in the United States are citizens even if their parents are illegal immigrants.

The number of immigrants in Texas has risen rapidly in a little over a decade — growing from 2.2 million in 1995 to 2.6 million in 2000 to nearly 3.5 million in 2007. Since 2000, the state's immigrant population has increased 32.7 percent.

The median household income for immigrant households in Texas is lower than the median household income for native households — $32,998 for immigrants compared to $46,332 for native households. Since the number of people in a household is 3.3 for immigrants compared to 2.5 for natives, the per-person median income is a more dramatic 46 percent higher for natives — $18,533 compared to $9,996.

In Texas, 48.4 percent of the immigrants age 18 or older did not have a high school diploma, compared to 10.5 percent of the native population. The report said 56.8 percent of the state's immigrants and their children lived in or near poverty, compared to 32.6 percent of the native population and its children.

In Texas, 61.1 percent of immigrants and their children are uninsured or on Medicaid, double the 30.2 percent of natives and their children in the same circumstances. As citizens, the children of illegal immigrants are eligible for Medicaid.

"For state governments, Medicaid is a particular concern because between one-third to one-half of the program's costs are typically borne by state taxpayers," the report said.

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