Illegal Immigrants’ Children Fare Worse at School

The majority of children of illegal immigrants from Mexico in the Southland fail to graduate from high school, completing an average of two fewer years of schooling than their peers with legal immigrant parents, a new study has found, writes Teresa Watanabe at the Los Angeles Times.

The study by UC Irvine professor Frank Bean and three other researchers documented the persistent educational disadvantages for the 3.8 million children, with roughly 8 out of 10 of whom being born in the United States.

The study analyzed data from a 2004 survey of 4,780 adult children of immigrants in the five-county Los Angeles metropolitan area. Among them, 1,350 were children of Mexican immigrants; 45% of them had undocumented parents.

The study's authors said their findings highlighted the need to help such families gain legal status and a more secure future, arguing that deporting all of them was unrealistic.

"By not providing pathways to legalization, the United States not only risks creating an underclass, but also fails to develop a potentially valuable human resource," the report said.

Lupe Moreno of the Santa Ana-based Latino Americans for Immigration Reform, however, said the study's findings do not justify granting legalization to undocumented migrants, who she believes should be deported and made to reenter legally.

"Amnesty is the wrong solution," she said. "I'm putting it on the schools — they need to do better educating these kids" regardless of their parents' legal status."

The study found that mothers had the largest influence: Children whose mothers were legal residents but whose fathers weren't completed about 12 1/2 years of education. If the father was legal and the mother wasn't, the children finished about 11 years of school.

Bean said children of illegal immigrants face high levels of stress, lack money for academic enrichment activities and, particularly for boys, pressures to work that lead many to drop out of school. The study shows that children of illegal immigrants averaged 11 years of education, compared with about 13 years for those whose parents were legal residents.

Interestingly, once illegal immigrants found ways to legalize their status their children's educational levels rose substantially.

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