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Georgetown Immigration Report Coincides With Recent Move in Senate

January 29, 2013 – A recent report by Georgetown and Oxford universities concludes that the United States and the United Kingdom should put up fewer barriers to undocumented minors’ access to education and health care and provide access to legal residence and citizenship.

Georgetown’s Institute for the Study of International Migration (ISIM) and Oxford’s Centre on Migration Policy and Society jointly released “Dreams Deferred: The Undocumented Children and Access to Education, Healthcare and Livelihoods in the United Kingdom and United States.”

“Countries suffer greatly when such minors are consigned to lives of irregular and exploitative employment and poverty,” says Susan F. Martin, ISIM director. “The countries in which they live do not reap the benefits of the education these children have gained if they are unable to work legally.”

Better Chances

A bipartisan group of U.S senators unveiled a detailed immigration reform plan Jan. 28 that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented people who entered the country as minors. 

President Obama is expected to talk about immigration reform in a speech this afternoon in Las Vegas.  
 
“I think the chances are better than they've been in the past for comprehensive immigration reform, but the contours of the Senate group’s proposals have been around for at least a decade,” says Martin, also Georgetown’s Herzberg Professor of International Migration. “The devil has always been in the details, not the principles.”

Martin notes that the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program adopted by the Department for Homeland Security in June 2012 allows people who came to the United States as children and meet several key guidelines to ask that deportation action involving be deferred for two years. After that, such individuals may be eligible for work authorization.

“This program gives new hope to undocumented youth that they will eventually be able to regularize their status,” Martin says.

4.5 Million Children

The report notes that the U.S. and U.K. saw huge numbers of unauthorized migration during the economic boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

While the economic crises reduced high levels of immigrants, the report reveals a significant, more recent growth in the number of children who are either unauthorized or are the citizen children of undocumented parents.

“Recent estimates show that there are about 1 million unauthorized children in the United States,” Martin says, “and 4.5 million more born to unauthorized parents.”

Different Policy Frameworks

Interviewers for the report in the U.S. spoke to mostly Mexican and Latin American families living in the Washington, D.C., area, Colorado and New Mexico. The U.K. researchers spoke with families from Afghanistan, Brazil, Kurdistan, Jamaica and Nigeria living in Birmingham and London, England.

“This report is also an account of two quite different policy frameworks for addressing the situation of undocumented children,” Martin says. “In the U.S., for example, the problem involves just one generation, since children born to unauthorized migrants in the United States are automatically U.S. citizens. Children here do not face the same level of marginalization or fear of deportation like they do in the United Kingdom.”

Contrasting Rules

“By contrast, the U.K. does not appear to be exploring ways to help resolve the status of undocumented children, even those who were born in the country. Yet, the length of residence in the U.K. makes these children in many cases de facto non-deportable.”

And while both the U.S. and the U.K. require compulsory education and access to some primary as well as emergency health care, the report notes that officials are increasingly asked to check the legal status of people seeking many types of services.

The document is not all doom and gloom, however.

“The voices in this report compose a story of everyday resistance, adjustment, adaptation and resilience,” the study says. “…[and a] vivid account of the everyday struggle of children and families to create and maintain some sense of normality despite a situation of extreme precariousness…”

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