From the Washington Post, writer N.C. Aizenman presents some of the Pew Center's findings.
Forty percent -- or 3.3 million of these children -- have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant, mostly from Mexico or Central America, according to a recent analysis of census data by demographer Jeffrey S. Passel of the Pew Hispanic Center. And researchers warn that the long-term consequences for the country could be profound.
"The fact that so many in this population face these initial disadvantages has huge implications in terms of their education, their future labor market experience, their integration in the broader society, and their political participation," said Roberto Gonzales, a professor at the University of Washington who has studied this generation.
The most immediate result has been a substantial increase in the number of American children growing up in poverty. Partly because illegal immigrants tend to have low levels of education and partly because their immigration status makes it harder to move up the job ladder, their U.S.-born children are almost twice as likely to be poor as the children of legal immigrants or native parents, the Pew Hispanic Center found.
To supporters of immigrants, that's an argument for offering a path to legalization for the adults in "mixed-status families." These are households in which the parents are in the country illegally while their U.S.-born children are entitled to all the benefits and aid that their parents are not.
"When you talk about someone who is undocumented, the chances are extremely high that they are in a mixed-status family. . . . Legalization would be one of the best anti-poverty strategies we could employ," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the advocacy group America's Voice.
But advocates for stricter immigration laws see these families as one of the most compelling reasons to clamp down on illegal immigration.
"Not because [illegal immigrants] are ripping us off or don't work hard," said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, "but because they're collecting benefits for their children. In our society, people with a fifth-grade education can hold two or three jobs and still not afford to support their families. There's no way for them to avoid putting a strain on the social-welfare system."