Children

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

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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