E.g., 10/03/2023
E.g., 10/03/2023
A Profile of U.S. Children with Unauthorized Immigrant Parents

The research literature finds that growing up with unauthorized immigrant parents places children—nearly 80 percent of whom were born in the United States—at a disadvantage. These children are more exposed to a number of risk factors than children of immigrants generally and all U.S. children, including lower preschool enrollment, reduced socioeconomic progress, and higher rates of linguistic isolation, limited English proficiency, and poverty.

Barring major policy changes, the development of these young children will take place in families disadvantaged by parental unauthorized status. Over the past decade, immigration reform that would provide a pathway to legal status for these parents stalled in Congress several times, and recently a federal appeals court upheld a lower court opinion suspending the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) initiative, which would extend work permits and a temporary reprieve from deportation to unauthorized immigrant parents. Twenty-six states challenged the DAPA program in federal court and won an injunction suspending its implementation. As appeal to the injunction awaits a likely Supreme Court review, some of these states are implementing policies that could compound the negative effects of parental unauthorized status on children, making the well-being of children in mixed-status families even more precarious.

This fact sheet employs U.S. Census Bureau data to examine the number, characteristics, and socioeconomic status of the 5.1 million children under age 18, both U.S.-citizen and noncitizen, who are living with an unauthorized immigrant parent. The analysis explores the prevalence of mixed-status families (those with unauthorized immigrant parents and U.S.-citizen children), updating the literature examining them.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. Number and Characteristics  of Children with Unauthorized Immigrant Parents

A. Age Distribution of Children

B. Variations in Child Immigration Status by Age

C. English Proficiency of Unauthorized Immigrant Families and Children

D. Family Income

E. Preschool Enrollment among Young Children

F. State Distribution of Children with Unauthorized Parents

III. Eligibility for Deferred Action Programs

A. Parental Eligibility for DAPA

B. Child and Parental Eligibility for DACA

IV. Conclusion