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Immigration reform can keep millions of mixed-status families together

Nearly three decades after Congress last passed meaningful immigration reform, more mixed-status families than ever face uncertainty about whether they could be separated from their family members and loved ones.

Use the interactive tool below to see the estimated number of U.S. citizens living in mixed-status families for your state or Congressional district.

FWD.us estimates that some 10.6 million U.S. citizens live with undocumented immigrants.1 More than 22 million people in the U.S. live in mixed-status households, where at least one undocumented person lives with U.S. citizens, green card holders, or other lawful temporary immigrants. All told, more than 1 in 20 people in the U.S. are under constant threat of being separated from family members and loved ones in their home.

About 5.8 million U.S. citizen children live with undocumented household members, with 4.9 million of these children having at least one undocumented parent.”

About 5.8 million U.S. citizen children live with undocumented household members, with 4.9 million of these children having at least one undocumented parent. Most of these children were born in the United States, are U.S. citizens, and are enrolled in public schools. Some U.S. citizen children have been barred from accessing benefits to which they’re entitled, including access to COVID-19 recovery assistance, because of their parents’ undocumented status.2

At the same time, nearly 1.7 million U.S. citizens have a spouse who is undocumented. Roughly a quarter have been married for 20 years or longer, while more than half have been married for 10 years or longer.

California, Texas, Florida, and New York have some of the highest numbers of U.S. citizens living with undocumented immigrants; more than half of U.S. citizens living in mixed-status households live in these four states.

Note: Children are less than 18 years old. See methodology at fwd.us/citizenship for more information on how estimates were calculated. Estimates are rounded to 1,000.
Source: FWD.us analysis of 2019 American Community Survey augmented data

Providing a pathway to citizenship for family members, particularly undocumented spouses and undocumented parents, would bring important economic benefits for their families and for the broader economy.

Providing a pathway to citizenship for family members, particularly undocumented spouses and undocumented parents, would bring important economic benefits for their families and for the broader economy. Undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens and undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children could make as much as 58% more after taxes if they were to become U.S. citizens. This economic impact would have important multiplier effects for the broader economy, adding $59 billion more to the economy each year and an additional $16 billion in combined federal, payroll, state, and local tax revenue.

Although the U.S. has a history of supporting family-based immigration, spouses of U.S. citizens who entered the U.S. without inspection cannot adjust their status to become green card holders due to inadmissibility bars. They instead have to go abroad and are subject to a lengthy, expensive, and involved process involving several U.S. federal agencies. The same inadmissibility bars prohibit adult U.S. citizen children from sponsoring their undocumented parents, even if their U.S. citizen children are older than 21, the minimum age at which children can sponsor immigrant parents. These limitations of current immigration law lead to the devastating possibility that families could be separated, forcing loved ones to live with the constant anxiety that their mom, dad, sister, brother, wife, or husband could be deported at a moment’s notice.

Fixing our failed immigration system is personal for millions of Americans living in mixed-status families."

Congress must act to help keep mixed-status families together. The proposals currently being considered as part of the reconciliation packageto provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, and other essential workers like farm workers, would keep millions of mixed status families together. Without this legislation, millions of families in every state across the nation will be at risk of being separated permanently.

Fixing our failed immigration system is personal for millions of Americans living in mixed-status families. As citizens and voters, they are looking to Congress to provide their families a long-overdue chance at fairness, certainty, and a brighter future in the country they call home. With millions of U.S. citizens living daily with uncertainty over whether they may be separated from their families, it is well past time for Congress to deliver relief. Congress should immediately pass legislation that would give undocumented immigrants a pathway to U.S. citizenship. It is the right thing to do for millions of American families.

Phillip Connor

Senior Demographer

Notes

  1. Please see our methodology for more details on how estimates of undocumented immigrants are calculated. Children in this report are those who are less than 18 years old.
  2. For example. U.S. citizen children with a documented parent were ineligible for the first COVID-19 cash payment, but were eligible for the second payment if at least one of their parents was a U.S. citizen. The third payment was eligible for all U.S. citizen children, regardless of a parent’s immigration status.
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