immigration | September 22, 2011

Marcelo Suarez-Orozco: A Dismal Outlook for Children of Illegal Immigrants

In a recent New York Times story, Marcelo Suarez-Orozco reveals the results of a study he conducted—the first of its kind—which paints a bleak portrait of life in America for the children of illegal immigrants. In the United States, nearly five million children, affected by their parent’s illegal status, are at risk of “lower educational performance, economic stagnation, blocked mobility and ambiguous belonging,” Suarez-Orozco writes. "[Illegal status] affects cognitive development, engagement in school, and [a child’s] ability to be [an] emerging citizen.” For parents, this atmosphere of dread leads to lower enrollment in programs that they quality for—such as food stamps and child care subsidies—which would otherwise aid their children.

Further, kids without legal status see their troubles continue well into their teenage years, as they stumble with job applications, licenses, financial aid for school, and many other official interactions. Suarez-Orozco's report, which you can read here, is a sobering appraisal of the flaws inherent in US immigration policy. Perhaps it will serve as a first step in correcting a system that is still far from perfect.

A distinguished voice on immigration, globalization and education (separately, and in relation to each other), Marcelo Suarez-Orozco is the co-founder of the Harvard Immigration Projects. He has lectured around the world, including at the UN and the Vatican. He is currently the Courtney Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization and Education at NYU.