Majority of Undocumented Immigrants Have Lived in US for Over a Decade, Report Says

The majority of the 10.2 million undocumented adult immigrants in the United States have lived in this country for at least 10 years, according to a new report by the Pew Hispanic Center.

The report comes on the heels of a debate among GOP presidential candidates over what to do with the millions of undocumented immigrants who are living in the country, particularly those who have lived here for more than a decade and have planted roots in the United States.

The issue was fueled by GOP presidential candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who proposed letting undocumented immigrants obtain a special kind of legal status that allows them to work here if they have lived in the United States for a long time, have children, have paid taxes and belong to a church.

The Pew report also said that nearly half of the nation’s undocumented parents are parents of minor children.

Many of Gingrich’s fellow candidates assailed his proposal – which he stressed did not call for granting such immigrants citizenship -- claiming that it is a form of amnesty that would encourage more immigrants to come to the United States.

According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 35 percent of unauthorized adult immigrants have lived in the US for more than 15 years, 28 percent for 10-14 years, 22 percent for 5 to 9 years, and 15 percent for less than five years.

The analysis also suggests that the portion that has been in the country for 15 years or more has doubled since 2000.

The share of immigrants that has lived in the United States for less than five years has fallen by half during this period, from 32 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2010.

The fact that the amount of unauthorized immigrants that have been in the country for more than 15 years have been here for a longer time reflects the downturn of the economy and the tightening of the border. It also reflects that fewer immigrants are returning to their country.

The Pew Hispanic Center analysis also shows that 46 percent of unauthorized adult immigrants are parents of minor children, while only 38 percent of legal immigrant adults and 29 percent of U.S. born adults are parents to underage children.

The report noted that 91 percent of Latinos who are not U.S. citizens or legal residents feel that unauthorized immigrants should be given an opportunity to legalize their status if they pay fines, have jobs and pass background checks. Some 86 percent of all Latinos said they feel the same, the report said. Among the general population, 72 percent shared that view.

As for religion, nearly 40 percent of Hispanic adults who are not citizens or legal permanent residents say they attend religious services weekly. An additional 23 percent say they attend services at least once or twice a month. And slightly less than 20 percent say they attend services seldom or never.

Among the general U.S. population, 38 percent reported attending religious services on at least a weekly basis.

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