Study: Immigrant births increasing |

Study: Immigrant births increasing

Lindsay Renick Mayer

WASHINGTON, D.C. – One in four babies born in Greeley in 2002 was born to immigrant mothers, according to a study released this week by the Center for Immigration Studies, a research organization that aims to reduce the number of immigrants to the United States.Births to immigrants in Colorado in the last decade more than tripled – one of the most dramatic increases in the country, the report says.Those who work with immigrant communities said they aren’t surprised, especially given the boom in the number of Hispanics coming to the United States. “I didn’t think it was news to me. It was a valid study,” said Penny Gonzales-Soto, an attorney who specializes in immigration at Catholic Charities Northern, which provides services to families in Weld and Larimer counties. “As a nation, we need to evaluate what we need to do to embrace the change and adapt to it and work within the change to have a healthy nation.”The implications of the study, especially what it says about immigration-related policy, have created controversy. Some say the study suggests stricter border control nationwide; others argue for an increase in services for immigrants.Steven Camarota, author of the study, used the numbers to decry undocumented workers. He argued that a temporary work program is ineffective if immigrants have children in this country, making the children legal citizens who can use U.S. services and later sponsor their parents for permanent residence. “Illegal immigration is making the poor poorer, costing taxpayers a lot of money and reducing productivity,” Camarota said.Gonzales-Soto, however, said the legal status of the children will not likely affect that of their parents. The children must be 21 before they can help their parents begin the application process, which looks at factors that don’t involve the status of family members, she noted.The study also explored how increased numbers of births to immigrant mothers nationwide may affect the children’s ability to assimilate to American culture given that they are likely to interact primarily with one another.”As a result, foreign cultural norms, values and even identities may be dominant among these children,” the report stated. Others say history proves immigrants can assimilate while also retaining their own culture.”If you look at it cross generationally, from grandfather to father to son, levels of assimilation increase over time,” said Jeff Joseph, an immigration attorney in Denver. “Successive levels of immigrants increase simultaneously levels of education, levels of income and mastery of English.”For families that have mixed legal statuses, assimilation may be challenging for other reasons, said Gonzales-Soto. The stress of constantly worrying about being separated begins to take its toll.”You feel as if you don’t have the same freedom as other families,” she said. “Rather than run the risk of losing a family member, we’ll stay at home, we’ll be isolated. That’s unhealthy for anyone.”The increase in births to immigrant mothers makes access to pre-natal care and health insurance even more essential, said Daphne Rommereim-Madden, a health clinic doctor. Medicaid in Colorado, however, is only available to those who can provide a Social Security number.”Often during [pre-natal care] we can avert bad outcomes and get more appropriate care for moms and babies,” Rommereim-Madden said. “Now we have no hope of that happening.”For Polly Baca, chief executive of the Latino American Research and Service Agency in Greeley, aid the study indicates that in addition to health care, education for children and English language classes for adults are vital.”We need to do it for our own good, for the good of the economy and for the good of society,” she said. “[The study] should open the eyes of people to say we’ve got a tremendous asset here.”Vail, Colorado

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