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UC Berkeley professor's study details trends in US immigrant integration

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SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

A campus professor co-authored a report released Monday examining the integration of immigrants and their American-born kin into U.S. society.

Irene Bloemraad, a UC Berkeley professor in the department of sociology, published the report, which found that immigrants and their descendants in the United States are improving in terms of education level, occupational distribution, income and language abilities as they become more integrated into U.S. society. The report also detailed trends in health, crime rates and divorce rates among immigrants.

The report noted that more than one-fourth of immigrants have a college education, whereas their children meet the education level of third-generation or greater native-born Americans. The paper also said the likelihood of poverty tended to decrease in subsequent generations of immigrants.

Two years ago, a group of immigration experts, including professors, assessed the situation of immigrants by surveying social science studies and producing measurable outcomes, such as the rate at which immigrants are learning English.

The group of professionals reviewed current studies and conducted their own research on topics they felt had not been adequately examined by other researchers.

Mary Waters — chair of the Integration of Immigrants Into American Society Committee, which conducted the study — sees the report contributing to immigration policies by providing factual evidence and clearing misconceptions about immigrants.

Waters described the issue of the “long standing stereotype” that immigrants commit more crime than native-born Americans. According to the report, however, the opposite is true: “Foreign-born men age 18-39 are incarcerated at one-fourth the rate of native-born American men of the same age.”

“I would wish there would be more attention to the scientific facts,” Waters said.

Bloemraad believes the study will improve public discourse on immigration in the United States by pinpointing specific indications of how immigrants have integrated into U.S. society.

The report provides evidence that for some young children, certain “cognitive delays” are caused by stresses that stem from the household. Children of immigrant parents may feel stress due to the fears of their parents’ potential deportation, food insecurity and other financial insecurities, according to Bloemraad.

Even though children of undocumented immigrants have birthright citizenship, their integration into U.S. society may be stymied by the unpredictable nature of their parents’ immigration statuses as well as the environment in which they are raised, the study found.

Victoria Robinson, a lecturer in the campus department of ethnic studies, described the “resilience and strength” of the undocumented student community despite the hardships its members may face related to their immigration status.

“I have been on campus for 17 years, and in that time, I have seen undocumented students struggle, and those struggles are still there and real,” Robinson said.

Contact Jason Tran at [email protected].

SEPTEMBER 23, 2015