Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The immigration debate: 70 percent of Mexicans in California are U.S. citizens


The immigration debate: 70 percent of Mexicans in California are U.S. citizens
By Javier Erik Olveraand Mike Swift, San Jose Mercury News
Article Launched: 11/05/2007

For the first time in the most current wave of immigration, U.S. Census Bureau figures show that 70 percent of California's Mexican population are U.S. citizens, blunting widespread belief the state is overrun by illegal immigrants.

The findings are part of new data that casts a spotlight on a steady demographic transition between 2000 and 2006, with the state leading the nation in the number of Mexican immigrants gaining citizenship.

California's Mexican population, boosted by a boom in births, is moving steadily into citizenship, with Mexican-Americans comprising about 7.6 million of the state's 36 million residents in 2006.

"California has reached a steady state with regard to immigration," said Dowell Myers, a demographer at the University of Southern California. "The number of new foreign-born arrivals is being offset by the number of babies who are being born here and the number of parents who are naturalizing."

Nationally, the U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics estimates about 11.6 million illegal immigrants in the country as of January 2006, with about 6.6 million of that total being from Mexico. The Census Bureau says there are 11.5 million Mexican immigrants in the United States.

The 2006 census data, released several weeks ago, is based on a statistical sample and therefore contains some statistical error.

The census estimates, however, align closely with U.S. Department of Homeland Security naturalization records and with state public health records on births to Latino mothers.
California does not break down birth records by Latino subgroups, but Mexicans are by far the largest group in the state according to census data.

The figures show Mexican-American citizenship in California increased by 3 percentage points from 67 percent in 2000 to 70 percent at the end of 2006.

They also show that roughly half of the 460,766 Mexican immigrants who became naturalized citizens nationwide between 2000 and 2006 were in California.

Births to people of Mexican ancestry are the biggest factor driving the citizenship spurt, with state public health records and census data showing there have been about 1.5 million children born to parents of Mexican ancestry since 2000, but it's unknown how many of those are children of illegal immigrants.

In Santa Clara County, the increase in citizens of Mexican ancestry due to birth and naturalization exceeds the growth in non-citizen immigrants by a 3-1 ratio this decade, census data shows.

Juan Loerca is a prime example. He came to Santa Clara County three years ago from the Mexican province of Sinaloa. He was married at the time, but he and his young bride didn't have any children.



Just five months ago, he and his wife, Lucilla, had their first son in this country.
"He's American," the 28-year-old said, smiling as he called his son's birth in the country his first "gift" to him.

Loerca and his wife, who would someday like to become naturalized citizens, could be forced to leave through deportation if their illegal status draws government attention.

But he noted that his son would still be able to come back to this country one day because he's a citizen.

"I want to have kids here, to give them opportunity," he said. "To be a citizen is to have opportunity."

He and his wife would like to have three more children, and he's hoping to have them within the next few years.

Al Camarillo, a Stanford University historian who studies Chicano history and the scattering of Mexican immigrants across the country, said the decision to have children in the U.S. is a way for illegal immigrants to begin the process of assimilation.


"They realize that we're not going back, that we've been here for a long time, our children are growing up here and we're going to stay here - those kinds of calculations have gone on in the minds of Mexican-Americans for generations. At some point they make a decision, sometimes unconsciously, 'We're here, this is where our children are going to be raised and this is where we're going to remain.' "

On the other hand, many see the large number of births to illegal immigrants as a serious concern. Based on birth rates for the overall foreign-born population, the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group that supports curbs on immigration, says there are between 287,000 and 363,000 births to illegal immigrants in the U.S. each year.
Those children, FAIR says, have a significant impact on hospitals, schools and other institutions, and constitute a major, but unknown, cost to taxpayers.

"It's as though we make our immigration policy in a vacuum," said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for FAIR. Those births have "ramifications for schools, for health care institutions and all sorts of things, and those things need to be considered in terms of formulating immigration policies."

Even in Los Angeles County, long a haven for illegal Mexican immigrants, new census data shows that the growth in that population has stopped dead this decade, as the legal and illegal immigrant stream has transferred to other parts of the U.S. California's share of the U.S. total of all Mexican immigrants is dropping, declining from 42 percent of the nation's total in 2000 to 36 percent in 2006, an analysis of census data by the Mercury News shows.
The picture is very different in other areas of the country, with several pockets beginning to feel the ripple effects of illegal Mexican immigration and fueling division over immigration reform.

In North Carolina, the state with the biggest percentage of Latino growth during the 1990s, just 41 percent of Mexicans are U.S. citizens, and there has been no increase since 2000 in the total number of Mexican-Americans who have become citizens through naturalization there.

While Mehlman, of FAIR, agrees California may represent the future of immigration for the rest of the country, he predicts that future is not necessarily an attractive one.
Los Angeles is a particularly divided place, he said, between troubled public schools and affluent private ones, between affluent whites and the Latino workers who cross town each day to tend their gardens and clean their homes.

"The state generally is becoming a two-class society . . . The outlook in California, I don't see it as being all that rosy," Mehlman said. "What we've been saying all along is that unless you control this influx, what happens is wages get driven down. In this case (Mexican immigrants) are going to other places, but it is not a good thing to drive down the wages in any market."

The transition of California's Mexican population toward citizenship is not uniform across the state. Fast growing inland areas, such as Riverside County in Southern California and Contra Costa County in the Bay Area, are gaining immigrants more quickly than they are gaining Mexican-American citizens, a reverse of the situation in Santa Clara, Los Angeles and San Diego counties.

Camarillo, the Stanford professor, said the tenor of the nation's immigration debate is pushing many Mexican immigrants to become citizens.

"They see the handwriting on the wall - things are getting more difficult for immigrants," he said.

Roselia Aguilar, a 29-year-old native of Mexico who has lived in San Jose for a dozen years, had a pragmatic reason for becoming a U.S. citizen recently - she was worried about changing immigration laws.

But as she stood amid 450 people from 57 nations, raised her right hand and solemnly took an oath to "entirely renounce" her fidelity to any other country, "to bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution, and to bear arms for the United States if necessary, she felt moved by the feeling of belonging to her new country.

"I think it's one of the most important things that ever happened to me," she said moments after a recent naturalization ceremony in Campbell. "It's just different. I feel something nice inside me. I feel like that I was born again."

http://www.mercurynews.com/search/ci_7374128

1 comment:

jose antonio said...

resulta sorprende descrubrir que el porcentaje de mexicanos legales en california es tan elevado y, a la vez, que el mismo sea tan bajo en otros estados de la union americana. california por si mismo es la 5a economia del mundo y la importancia del trabajo de los mexicanos para esa economia es inegable. la poblacion de mexicanos en california sigue aumentando y con ello su aportacion a la economia de la misma, de manera que al ser ciudadanos se aseguran a si mismos y a sus hijos, el poder de disfrutar los resultados de su trabajo y garantizan a sus hijos un mejor futuro que no se vera afectado por la posibilidad de que sus padres sean deportados.