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Poverty, Education Risks for Immigrants

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Children of immigrant parents in New Mexico – even those who are naturalized or in the country legally – are more likely to live in poverty, and their parents are less likely to have completed high school.

A report released Tuesday by New Mexico Voices for Children that looked at data on poverty, education, health and other factors found that children from immigrant families are at higher risk in many areas. It recommends a number of policy measures to help immigrant children succeed at higher levels.

Specifically, the report found that 42 percent of children from immigrant families live in poverty, compared to 27 percent of New Mexico children overall. How does that look in terms of dollars? The median income for a New Mexico household headed by a U.S.-born adult is $45,685, but the median income for households headed by immigrants is $30,972.

And children in immigrant families are less likely to have educated parents. While about 10 percent of New Mexico children in U.S.-born families have parents who didn’t complete high school, that number is 38 percent for children with immigrant parents.

Christine Hollis, who wrote the report and is director of the New Mexico Voices for Children KIDS COUNT, said the report highlights the challenges immigrant families face.

“Immigrants often have a tough time establishing themselves economically and socially after arriving in the U.S., even though they also bring with them many strengths,” Hollis said. “Studies show that immigrant families, in general, tend to have two parents at home, a very strong work ethic, and are tight-knit and supportive of their children, which helps counteract some of the socioeconomic risk factors their children are likely to face, especially in the school system.”

The report recommends:

⋄  National immigration reform, and specifically the DREAM Act, which would make legal status more available to young people brought illegally to the United States at a young age.

⋄  Universal preschool and high-quality child care systems, including access to health care, to help make immigrant children “school-ready” by kindergarten and help them speak English proficiently as early as possible.

⋄  Bilingual education in schools and a focus on teaching students who are learning English.

⋄  State agencies work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to find alternatives to detaining parents who don’t present an imminent danger or flight risk, and to give children more access to detained parents.

⋄  State agencies work to improve conditions for undocumented immigrant children in the foster care system, such as providing training for staff on immigration law, children’s rights, and cultural sensitivity.

⋄  “Anti-immigrant” state legislation, such as rescinding driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, not be passed.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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