U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants getting mixed message about value of US citizenship

LatinaLista — In Texas, the most popular baby boy name in 2008 was “Jose.” That’s according to the latest data from the U.S. Social Security Administration that processed the 2,336 Social Security cards requested for those newborn citizens so christened.

(Source: USA TODAY)
Other names on the agency’s list of 100 most popular baby names that were easily identifiable as “Hispanic,” and were among the top 20, were Angel, Juan and Luis. And there are still other names with a decidedly Spanish accent creeping up the top 100 list as well: Jesus, Carlos, Alejandro, Miguel and Santiago, to name a few.
In fact, in those states with a sizeable Latino presence, some of the same names can be found among the top 100 in each of the states. It’s not a big surprise considering the latest report issued last week by the Pew Hispanic Center titled “Latino Children: A Majority are U.S.-born Offspring of Immigrants.”
It’s a report that while documenting the 20-year Latino growth spurt also sounds warning bells about an upcoming generation shaped by today’s immigration politics who are receiving a mixed message about the rewards of being a U.S. citizen — a birthright that opens doors of opportunities but also forces the choice of choosing family over country.


The Pew Hispanic report revealed that the majority of Latino children, 52 percent, or 8,226,000 are second-generation. It means that these children are the offspring of at least one immigrant parent.
Common sense dictates that these children, by virtue of being born and raised in the United States, feel, think, act and identify as being “American.”
Yet for a segment of this 52 percent, of whom almost four million were born to undocumented parents, their sense of national identity lies in jeopardy. For these children, being U.S. citizens does not safeguard their right to the same opportunities promised to every child born in this country.
The report’s authors found that second-generation children born to undocumented parents tend to live in what are classified as “mixed-status” households, where the legal status of family members includes both citizens and undocumented. These households also tend to be more economically fragile meaning that the loss of a breadwinner severely impacts the welfare of the family since most families either don’t qualify or are reluctant to apply for public assistance.
Because immigration enforcement practices would rather deport these parents than work with them to attain legal residency and, eventually, U.S. citizenship, the federal government inadvertently places these young citizens at high risk for hunger, homelessness and abandonment.
Critics have long argued that if undocumented parents cared so much about their children, U.S.-born or not, they would reunite with them in their home country. Some have done so but the majority of parents, as evidence by anecdotal stories of children left behind, still see the United States as a country offering better chances of educational and economic success for their children and want desperately to fulfill that potential.
To force families to choose sends the wrong message to children about the value of US citizenship. At a time in our country’s history when demographers predict that these children will be among those who comprise the future majority of workers needed to replace the nation’s aging workforce, forcing them to leave the country is not just shortsighted but trivializes the privilege of having US citizenship.
Being a citizen means being afforded the opportunities and benefits of that birthright from day one and not arbitrarily granted those rights down the road because the country suddenly needs its citizens.
Taking into consideration the strong characteristics exhibited by the majority of second-generation Latinos — bilingual, living in a two-parent household — these children have the foundation to create productive lives that lead to later socio-economic and educational gains for themselves and the country.
As they get older, these children will learn about the politics behind the actions that didn’t just economically devastate their families, emotionally scar them and force them to make a decision that no one of any age should have to make but it will shape how they see their birth country — a nation that honors all its citizens or only the chosen few.

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20 Comments

  1. Traci said:

    “To force families to choose sends the wrong message to children about the value of US citizenship. At a time in our country’s history when demographers predict that these children will be among those who comprise the future majority of workers needed to replace the nation’s aging workforce, forcing them to leave the country is not just shortsighted but trivializes the privilege of having US citizenship.”
    It’s obvious except to those you euphemistically call undocumented and those who call them friend and family that these children are put in such an untenable position by their parents, much like when a citizen parent violates our other laws. And to say that the children of illegal aliens are major demographic and essential to our future is to ignore that they may easily be replaced by permitting additional legal immigration. Not to be cruel, but it is a fact that there is no shortage of people who would apply and become legal residents with the intent to become citizens. Your implication that these children are the sole source of future workers and replacement population is just not true. If this country is to compete in the modern world, peoples from cultures that value education should be encouraged more than those which don’t. In short, this country would never miss the children of illegal aliens. Furthermore, capitulating to the concept of immigration by imposition is making bad precedence and promulgates continued illegal behavior.

  2. cookie said:

    Good to see someone admit that the Hispanic population is increasing through illegal immigration and also by the eventual birth of their offspring in this country. Is this something we as Americans should be joyous of?
    Put the blame where the blame belongs in these “mixed status” families and that is on the parents themselves that thumbed their noses at our immigration laws and created this mess for their U.S. born children. Mexico and many other countries recognize dual citizenship. So the whole family can return to the parent’s homeland and when the children reach 18 they can choose what country they want to live in.
    These kids aren’t as Americanized as claimed here. They are instilled with just as much ethnic, cultural and a sense of national pride of their parent’s homeland from their parents as any they get from any mainstream American culture influence but perhaps even more so from their home environment from what I have observed of them.
    They also learn from their parents here illegally that it is ok to break the immigration laws of our country under the guise of one’s own needs and ethnic ties.

  3. Karen said:

    Re: “forcing them to leave the country is not just shortsighted but trivializes the privilege of having US citizenship.”
    Nobody is forcing any American citizen to leave the country.

  4. MaryElizabeth said:

    It is so sad to see that these children are growing up in such a dysfunctional atmosphere. It is hard to believe that this is happening in the United States of America but it is true…This is a reality that familys are being split up in such an in-humane manner. My guess is these children will never forget the pain the system put them through. To see a child hold up a sign with a broken heart on it that says please do not spilt my family up is too see the reality that the family values in the US have declined with certain groups or individuals to a very sad point. I certainly hope that our politicians move on our immigration policys and support changing the laws that grant a path to citizenship to undocumented workers in the US. A recent pew poll shows that 63% of Americans favor a path to citizenship to the undocumented as the most reasonable solution to our immigration crisis. The Pew poll is a highly accurate poll and it is a breath of fresh air to see that the Vast majoirty of Americans have real humane values when it comes to familys.

  5. cookie said:

    As has already been pointed out by many in here it is the parents that are to blame. Stop blaming Americans and our immigration laws. We have every right to have them as do other countries.
    Rewarding them with legalization is not the right path to go. It sends a signal for every destitute person to enter at will without the permission of our government.
    We could use less population than we have now. There is no shortage of people now or in the future. Americans are procreating at replacement levels. Let the baby boomer generation die out naturally and get back to a sane and stable population growth. We could have a smaller economy and it would be better in the long run overall.

  6. hissy said:

    YES FAMILY VALUES HAVE FALLEN IN THE U.S. MOST OF THE BABIES BORN HERE ARE ILLEGAL MEXICANS. YOU ARE CORRECT! Teens keep popping out more and more babies to live in poverty in America they feel like they hit paydirt because we raise them from cradle to grave on tax $. Give us a break. Sick of these sob stories. STOP blaming AMERICANS for the crimes and sins of THE parents of all these kids.

  7. Traci said:

    “I certainly hope that our politicians move on our immigration policys and support changing the laws that grant a path to citizenship to undocumented workers in the US. A recent pew poll shows that 63% of Americans favor a path to citizenship to the undocumented as the most reasonable solution to our immigration crisis.”
    So your solution, ME, is to cave in to illegal aliens. When they come here against U.S. immigration policy they are to be granted citizenship by way of playing on public sympathies? Where’s the fairness to those who apply in their home countries, that don’t use their U.S. born children to get what they couldn’t obtain otherwise? No, there is a hard moral lesson to be learned by the parent and the child, that cheating is not rewarded. How do you word your future law for those would be legal residents who don’t currently have children born here? Does it go something like this…. It is illegal to enter the U.S. without authorization, but if you somehow manage to get here anyway, you will be granted legal residency through the children who are born here. This probably the thinking of those who are presently here. How does that do any good for we who are citizens to govern our borders? You are so pathetically weakminded and immature, ME!

  8. Tara Murphy said:

    If the solvency of our social security system is going to depend on taxes generated by the children of illegal, semi-literate parents we’re in BIG trouble.

  9. Texan123 said:

    These families chose family over country when they came here without visas. The problem is that the American born children are choosing country over family to stay.

  10. MaryElizabeth said:

    I ask all of you a simply question…If you had to make a decision like this one what would you choose.
    A)Your Mother and the US.(The split family option)
    B)Your Father and the US.
    (Another split family option)
    C)The US and no parents.
    D)Your Mother and Father and a foreign country with no other family or friends.
    E)None of the above (Options are in-humane)

  11. MaryElizabeth said:

    Again, What defines America? The vast majority of people and their solutions.
    *63 percent of Americans want real solutions to the problems their country faces. Do not attack the opinion of the vast majority of Americans.
    *Pew poll is a reliable source of information and you have to respect what Americans want. They do not want familys separated in America.
    *Americans do not want immigrants detained in prison systems for up to 5 years just because they fell out of status. They do not want in-humane practices in detentions and they do not want to not want pay for play jail systems abusing immigrants at the expense of their taxdollars.
    *I would suggest you shy away from personal attacks. Americans do not like mean-spirited behavior.

  12. cookie said:

    There are many things that define America, not just one. ONE of them is the rule of law to be applied equally to everyone. No one is exempt from our laws or the ensuing penalty for breaking them.
    For every poll conducted that concludes that Americans want amnesty for illegals there are just as many that show otherwise. It depends on how the questions are asked.
    Right, no one wants families separated they can all live in the country where their presence is lawful.
    Yes, quick immigration hearings and short incarcerations make more sense. That will help eliminate the taxpayer expense of holding them, it would be in the immigrants best interest and during their short stay humane conditions should apply.

  13. Hissy said:

    MaryElizabeth…you are asking people to break the law. If my family were to get evicted from our home and had no place to go …that DOES NOT MAKE IT OKAY to break into my neighbors house now does it? Just because a person is having bad times…does not mean they can just take what they want. MEXICO is NOT a good neighbor and trespassing is a crime. I bet you would not let folks camp in your front yard even if they had tons of kids. Why is there a fence around the White House? We all pay for our property and have the right to say who enters. They need to ask their own president to HELP them in thier own COUNTRY. They make the choice to break the law.

  14. Texan123 said:

    Poll results will differ depending on who is polled. Is there any breakdown regarding which areas of the country were polled? Which age groups?
    Has anyone on this site been polled by PEW?
    Polls can and are slanted to reveal various opinions depending on various agendas.
    Why can’t legal American voters decide about amnesty? Why are American citizens not allowed to protest illegal immigration without being called racists? Are all illegal immigrants of one race?
    Americans feel that our government has failed to keep it’s promises to it’s citizens. Taxpayers are forced to pay for the birth of children of illegal immigrants in our hospitals. We are forced to pay for educating children of illegal immigrants. Yet, even the leaders we elect and trust to stop illegal alien benefits do nothing. We have been betrayed.
    It is not hate. It is not racism. It is a betrayal of trust. Laws are not enforced. Borders are not secure. Human smuggling continues because no one has the guts to stop it.

  15. Texan123 said:

    MaryElizabeth,
    Why is ‘stay in your own country and avoid immigration problems’ not an option? The choice to break up families is made by those who violate the immigration law.

  16. Traci said:

    “D)Your Mother and Father and a foreign country with no other family or friends.”
    My father speaks fluent Korean and works a business in that country. I was 10 years old when we moved to Korea. We had no family or friends at first, but we did make friends and I learned Hangul. We lived there for 8 more years. I adapted and so can these children. You people exaggerate their plight into a horror story that is part of your fervent imaginations. Remember, the parents of these illegal aliens probably didn’t know the language or have any friends when they arrive in this country, and they survived. Chill out!

  17. Rochelle said:

    Great article and important points. Only when we stop “us”-”them” attitudes will we truly be able to thrive as a nation. By attacking immigrants (who are often forced to leave their countries through our countries’ unfair international policies), the US is shooting itself right in the foot. Those of us privileged enough to live in safety and peace from extreme poverty, or family separation are blessed. What significant harm has any group of immigrants caused (except perhaps European settlers against Native Americans)? Immigrants today come for a better life, to work hard and contribute positively. They are overwhelmingly good, humble people with a lot to teach us about being better human beings. The benefits of their presence far and away outweigh the cons. To whom much is given much is required, and we need to stand up to the hatred, ignorance, fear and racism that feeds so many of these attacks. No wave of immigration has ever harmed this society, nor will it now, unless we are intent on damaging what are in essence our own people. Immigrants, and especially their children of immigrants are part of us, too. Why is it so difficult to understand that in a globalized world, geographic national borders are less and less relevant? Our times call us to think bigger and broader. The borders are in our minds.

  18. cookie said:

    The “us” vs “them” going on today is pro-illegal advocates vs law abiding Americans and yes it is dividing our country. The pro-illegals are demonizing those of us who expect our immigration laws enforced. They are turning their backs on their fellow citizens for some ethnocentric agenda and labeling us as racists for not going along with their agenda. No way do the citizens of this country deserve to have their country invaded because we have idiots in our government.
    The European immigrants came here for a better life also but there were no immigration laws back then and they didn’t come here to destroy the natives. It was only after the natives felt threatened by so many Europeans on this land did the conflicts break out. The natives weren’t innocents either. They committed atrocities against the Europeans also. There is no innocent party here.
    Regardless, this country was formed over 200 years ago with borders and a government. We have every right as any other country to have immigration laws today. We take in more legal immigrants than any other country but there has to be limitations and that is why we have immigration laws.
    Most Americans who want our immigration laws enforced are not haters, bigots or racist but the pro-illegals want to paint us as such. That is just plain hateful and is dividing our country.
    You had better do some better research if you don’t think that illegal immigration harms this country. What about the rule of law? Does that mean nothing to you?
    Go tell the rest of the world that borders are irrevelant and you will be picking yourself up off the floor. Borders are in our minds? LOL! Good lord how old are you?
    You try to paint this warm and fuzzy picture of all or most of these illegals as just wonderful people. Well I am sure some of them are basically but you are exaggerating if you think they all are. Most of them not only violated our borders but they commit identity theft to get a job and take benefits and jobs that should be for Americans. Is that what you call “wonderful”?
    We aren’t talking “immigrants” here we are talking illegal aliens get your terminologoy straight. Or at least if you are hell bent on calling them immigrants then at least have the honesty to say illegal immigrants. They need to fix their own countries. We aren’t the saviors of the whole world and I am tired of us getting involved in so many nation’s internal conflicts also. Time we stepped aside and let them all sink or swim. Too many lives have been lost both here and abroad.

  19. Sunnylia said:

    It is very obvious that most of us have forgotten how the US was founded. People come here for a better life. When they find it they have a family. In regards to all the teenage pregnancies, no need to point fingers for all you have to do is look in your own home. US citizens work more and pay less attention to their children leading them to find comfort in the wrong places. Now, would you go to whatever lengths for survival?

  20. cookie said:

    Well this country is now over 200 years old and we are no longer a nation of immigrants but a nation of U.S. citizens. No one has a right in today’s world to violate another country’s immigration laws to make a better life for themselves. It requires permission from each government with the proper papers. No excuses!

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