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Education Levels Lag for Children of Undocumented Immigrants

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Pressure to work, high stress levels and lack of money for academic enrichment may contribute to lower education levels for the children of undocumented immigrants, a new study has found.

According to this Los Angeles Times article, the study found that a majority of  children of undocumented immigrants from Mexico did not graduate high school and completed only 11 years of school — two less than peers whose parents are here legally. However, after the immigrants legalized their status, education levels went up, researchers found.

The study is based on data from a 2004 survey of 4,780 adult children of immigrants in the L.A. area. Of those surveyed, 1,350 were children of Mexican immigrants; 45 percent had undocumented parents, the L.A. Times noted.

Researchers contend that the results not only underscore the obstacles facing the children of undocumented immigrants but also show the need for immigration reform.

“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.

Researchers also found that a mother’s immigration status may exert a larger influence than a father’s. As the L.A. Times story noted, “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.”

This study comes on the heels of a Harvard Educational Review study featured last month in the Latino Ed Beat. That study noted that children of undocumented immigrants are “at risk of lower educational performance, economic stagnation, blocked mobility and ambiguous belonging” because of the family’s immigration status.

There are about 3.8 million children with undocumented parents living in the U.S. About 80 percent are the children are born in the United States.

As these studies and the reaction to the Alabama immigration law show, children with immigrant parents should be an integral part of education coverage. Drop-out rates, school policies, outreach programs, attendance numbers, college attendance rates and other core education concerns are all tied into immigration-related  issues.