At noon today, rather than join friends at a baby shower with cake and cookies, I listened in during the press briefing concerning new research estimates on unauthorized immigrants (aka illegal immigrants) and their families.
The report (click here) from the Pew Hispanic Center follows up on earlier research estimates and indicates there are 11.9 million illegal immigrants in the USA. (It is important to note that this is a projected estimate based on Census Data and other resources.)
Particularly fascinating to me is how the profile of the typical illegal immigrant has changed over time. It seems like, based on this research, a young dad with a young family, living in poverty without health insurance, and working in the AG sector of the US economy pretty much sums up the life and lifestyle of an illegal immigrant in 2009.
Here's the lede graphs from the Washington Post story:
The number of U.S.-citizen children born to illegal immigrants has dramatically increased over the past five years from 2.7 million in 2003 to 4 million in 2008, according to a study released today. The report by the nonpartisan, Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center also found that more than a third of such children were in poverty in 2007, compared with about 18 percent of those born to either legal immigrants or U.S.-born parents. Similarly, one in four U.S.-born children of unauthorized immigrants went without health insurance in 2008, compared with 14 percent of those born to legal immigrants and 8 percent born to U.S.-born parents. The findings suggest that the impact of the unprecedented spike in illegal immigration over the past three decades will continue to be felt for years to come, even as the size of the illegal immigrant population itself appears to have leveled off since 2006 at about 10.4 million adults and 1.5 million children.
(Photo: 2006, pro-immigrant protest)
During the press conference, reporters kept asking causal questions: Why has immigration leveled off? The bad economy or what? What is causing illegal immigrants to return home? What about the effects of new punitive legislation for those who hire illegal immigrants?
But the question rolling around in my head today is this:
What would Jesus do about illegal immigrants and their children?
No, I'm not looking for a bumper sticker answer or a public policy strategy or a Sunday school lesson about caring for the poor.
This issue of illegal immigrant families is not getting any easier for the church. These are families who need a lot of attention. They are poorer, less educated, and less cared for than the typical American family. They often don't have ready access to resources in an emergency.
Here's the big multiple choice question,
A. Look to Washington for a solution.
B. Call INS.
C. Invite them to a worship service.
D. Visit them.
E. Meet their needs.
F. All of the above.
G. None of the above.
President Obama said last week that he is seeking an "orderly way" for illegal immigrants to become American citizens. That's his solution. I wonder if that's even possible any more.
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