According to some experts, there are over 16 million immigrant children in the US, and many experts believe that in the future this segment of the US population will grow the fastest. In many cases, immigrant children are born in the US to parents who are from other countries. However, for some immigrant children, their status is complicated by the fact that they are born to undocumented parents.
When children are born to non-US parents who have immigrated to the US illegally, the children face some unique challenges. They may speak one language at home, for example, and another at school. They may also be caught between two cultures. In many cases, extended family may still be back in the country of origin, meaning that children have fewer relatives nearby. However, children born to parents who immigrate to the US legally at least have access to schooling and other public benefits, since they have legal status.
The same cannot be said of children of undocumented immigrants. Experts do not know exactly how many children of undocumented immigrants are in the US, but all agree that these children face special challenges. These children may not have access to the education and health benefits of documented immigrants and many face huge challenges daily. Today, especially, many states are enacting legislation that make it harder for undocumented students to get a college education. Some legislators also want to pass bills which would make it harder for children of undocumented immigrants to get citizenship by birthright, in cases where children are born in the US. While President Obama has advocated the DREAM Act, which would give children of undocumented immigrants more rights, this act has not passed into law.
In some cases, children are sent to the US by themselves, often as part of human trafficking organizations. If they successfully enter the country, these children are often victims of abuse. In cases where immigration authorities intercept them, these children may spend prolonged periods of time in immigration detention or caught in the immigration system. In 2010 alone, more than 8,000 unaccompanied children were detained by immigration authorities.
Some advocacy groups have been formed to help immigrant children. Among them is the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. The group advocates for children who are held in immigration custody and raises awareness about the plight of immigrant children. They help immigrant children in custody find attorneys and help immigrant children get assistance when they need it.