“Growing Up in the Shadows” of Illegal Immigration

September 29, 2011

Suspects wait to be transported during a pre-dawn raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in Santa Ana, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007. The week-long series of raids targeting five counties in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area resulted in the arrest of 338 illegal immigrants at their homes, while another 423 were taken into ICE custody at county jails, said Virginia Kice, spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)

About 5.5 million children in the U.S. have a parent who is here illegally; some of these kids are as well. And they’re not faring particularly well, according to one recent study.

Educational delays, health problems and trouble entering the workforce are just some of the problems they face while growing up “in the shadow of the law,” says a new report released yesterday in the Harvard Educational Review. Living under the constant threat of deportation, illegal immigrants are less likely to take advantage of assistance their children may be eligible for, such as child-care subsidies, public preschool programs and food stamps.

The study highlights the social impact of not being “here” but not being “there” either. The authors point out that even if families with undocumented members try to put down strong roots in a community, they live a day-to-day existence of “liminality,” or a state of perpetual transition. Being a “betwixt and between” resident allows them to participate in normal social rituals, but they are not fully accepted or acknowledged by society. This “ambiguity of belonging” can be particularly devastating for young people finding their way in life.

According to The New York Times, the study — which looked at immigrants from a variety of backgrounds — is the first to combine the field research of social scientists across the country and to track children from birth through college.

Stay tuned for our upcoming broadcast on immigration detention next month, where among other things, we explore how new Obama administration policies affect the children of illegal immigrants in the U.S.

Photo: Dozens of U.S.-born children from across the country traveled to the White House with their undocumented parents to march and demonstrate against deportations. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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