How Are Immigrants Faring After Welfare Reform?. Citizenship and Immigration Categories Used in This Report

03/04/2002

  • Native-born citizens. People born in the United States or born abroad as children of U.S. citizens. Many children, spouses, and other members of immigrant families are U.S.-born and therefore native citizens.
  • Naturalized citizens. Lawful permanent residents may become citizens through the naturalization process. Typically, they must be in the United States for five or more years to qualify for naturalization, although immigrants who marry citizens can qualify in three years.
  • Legal (or lawful) permanent residents (LPRs). These are foreign-born people who are legally admitted to live permanently in the United States through qualifying for immigrant visas abroad or adjustment to permanent resident status in the United States. In the context of this report, we only include those who have not become naturalized citizens. LPRs are issued documentation that is commonly referred to as "green cards," although the cards have not been green for many years. Most LPRs are brought to the United States by close family members or employers. This is the largest group of noncitizen immigrants.
  • Refugees and asylees. These are foreign-born people legally admitted to the United States because of the fear of persecution in their home countries. In general, refugees are promised admission before entry to the United States and may gain entry as a group, under a refugee program, although they must also qualify as individuals. Asylees arrive in the United States and claim asylum, so their cases typically require more individual review. After one year, most refugees and asylees are eligible for LPR status. In this report, people are reported as being refugees or asylees even if they have attained legal permanent residence. (But if they attained citizenship, they are classified as naturalized citizens.)
  • Other legal immigrants. This is a diverse set of foreign-born people who have been admitted to the United States for a temporary or indefinite period, but have not attained permanent residency. Most are people who have entered for a temporary period (e.g., with work, student, or tourist visas). Some seek to stay for a permanent or indefinite period and have "pending" statuses. Court cases have identified some of these people as "persons residing under color of law" (PRUCOL) immigrants. Some may have entered without lawful authorization, but have since attained a pending status that permits them to remain in the United States. Some in this category may eventually adjust their status and become LPRs.
  • Undocumented aliens (also called illegal immigrants). These are foreign-born people who do not possess a valid visa or other immigration document (e.g., because they entered the United States without inspection, stayed longer than their temporary visas permitted, or otherwise violated the terms under which they were admitted). Some may petition to adjust their status and eventually attain LPR status.

Two other terms should be defined:

  • Household refers to people who are living with the focal immigrant in the same dwelling unit, regardless of whether the people are related. A household may consist of a single person.
  • Family refers to related people who are living in the same household. We include both marital and nonmarital partners in determining the relationships within a household.(11) A family may include a single person. Thus, a four-person nuclear family, a single childless person, an unmarried couple living together, and a seven-person multigenerational family would all be enumerated as families in the data that follow. In most cases, the household and the family are the same, but in some cases there may be unrelated people in the household who would not be considered as part of the immigrants' family.

Table 1.1 presents the number and types of people living in immigrant families in the two cities: about 4.8 million people in Los Angeles County and 3.5 million people in New York City. These totals account for almost half of the 10.1 million residents of Los Angeles County and more than a quarter of the 11.6 million in New York City.

Table 1.1a.
Detailed Immigration Status of Focal Household Members, 1999-2000 Los Angeles County
  Unweighted sample size Weighted number in county (thousands) Weighted percent in sample Number Arriving Post-1996 (thousands) Share Arriving Post-1996

TOTAL - ALL AGES

Grand Total, All Focal People

4,748 4,823 100.0% 389 8.1%

Native citizens*

1,520 1,657 34.4% X X

Naturalized citizens

943 1,099 22.8% 6 0.5%

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

1,132 1,049 21.8% 108 10.3%
Refugees/asylees** 200 136 2.8% 15 11.4%
Other legal immigrants*** 41 67 1.4% 40 60.6%
Undocumented aliens 912 814 16.9% 219 26.9%
ADULTS (18-64 years old)
Subtotal, Adults 2,911 2,974 100.0% 293 9.9%

Native citizens*

137 225 7.6% X X
Naturalized citizens 772 967 32.5% 4 0.4%

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

996 917 30.8% 72 7.9%

Refugees/asylees**

165 117 3.9% 10 8.9%

Other legal immigrants***

38 66 2.2% 39 60.0%

Undocumented aliens

803 682 22.9% 167 24.5%

ELDERLY (65 or older)****

Subtotal, Elderly 236 158 100.0% 7 4.2%
Native citizens* 10 8 5.2% X X
Naturalized citizens 135 102 64.7% 0 0.2%

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

64 33 20.9% 4 12.0%

Refugees/asylees**

15 8 4.8% 1 17.6%

Other legal immigrants***

3 1 0.6% 1 100.0%

Undocumented aliens

9 6 3.7% 0 1.7%

CHILDREN (0 -17 years) - by own status

Subtotal, Children

1,601 1,691 100.0% 89 5.2%

Native citizens*

1373 1,424 84.2% X X

Naturalized citizens

36 30 1.8% 1 4.0%

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

72 99 5.9% 32 32.1%

Refugees/asylees**

20 12 0.7% 4 31.7%

Other legal immigrants***

0 0 0.0% 0 0.0%

Undocumented aliens

100 126 7.5% 52 41.2%

CHILDREN - by parents' status

Noncitizen children in:

Naturalized families 0 0 0.0% 0 0.0%

LPR families

60 70 29.2% 19 27.1%

Refugee families

24 25 10.5% 14 55.3%

Other alien families

1 1 0.4% 0 0.0%

Undocumented families

108 143 60.0% 55 38.3%

Citizen children in:

Naturalized families

272 422 41.0% 1 0.3%

LPR families

517 519 50.4% 0 0.0%

Refugee families

84 67 6.5% 0 0.0%

Other alien families

3 4 0.4% 0 0.0%

Undocumented families

527 439 42.7% 0 0.0%
* Native-born adults are primarily spouses or other family members of foreign-born adults
**Includes those originally admitted as refugees or asylees, who are not naturalized
*** Includes those with temporary work visas, student visas, PRUCOL, etc.
**** Sample does not fully represent native-born elderly people living in immigrant households
X' Denotes small sample size.
Source: Urban Institute, Los Angeles New York City Immigration Survey (LANYCIS)
Table 1.1b.
Detailed Immigration Status of Focal Household Members, 1999-2000 New York City
  Unweighted sample size Weighted number in county (thousands) Weighted percent in sample Number Arriving Post-1996 (thousands) Share Arriving Post-1996

TOTAL - ALL AGES

Grand Total, All Focal People 3,096 3,496 100.0% 371 10.6%

Native citizens*

635 1,003 28.7% X X

Naturalized citizens

1022 938 26.8% 4 0.5%

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

812 1,019 29.1% 178 17.5%

Refugees/asylees**

292 140 4.0% 32 22.7%

Other legal immigrants***

79 95 2.7% 52 54.4%

Undocumented aliens

256 301 8.6% 105 34.9%

ADULTS (18-64 years old)

Subtotal, Adults

1,903 2,157 100.0% 271 12.5%

Native citizens*

85 139 6.4% X X

Naturalized citizens

732 750 34.8% 2 0.3%

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

617 814 37.7% 114 14.0%

Refugees/asylees**

173 97 4.5% 17 17.6%

Other legal immigrants***

70 82 3.8% 39 47.7%

Undocumented aliens

226 275 12.8% 98 35.6%

ELDERLY (65 or older)****

Subtotal, Elderly 450 259 100.0% 13 5.0%

Native citizens*

8 6 2.1% X X

Naturalized citizens

256 163 62.8% 1 0.3%

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

102 60 23.2% 2 2.7%

Refugees/asylees**

80 30 11.5% 11 36.6%

Other legal immigrants***

0 0 0.0% 0 0.0%

Undocumented aliens

4 1 0.4% 0 0.0%

CHILDREN (0 -17 years) - by own status

Subtotal, Children

743 1,080 100.0% 87 8.1%

Native citizens*

542 858 79.5% X X

Naturalized citizens

34 26 2.4% 2 5.9%

Lawful permanent residents (LPRs)

93 144 13.4% 63 43.3%

Refugees/asylees**

39 14 1.3% 4 28.3%

Other legal immigrants***

9 13 1.2% 12 0.0%

Undocumented aliens

26 25 2.3% 7 28.3%

CHILDREN - by parents' status

Noncitizen children in:

Naturalized families

0 0 0.0% 0 0.0%

LPR families

84 139 70.8% 60 43.4%

Refugee families

42 16 8.2% 4 24.5%

Other alien families

10 13 6.6% 12 92.3%

Undocumented families

31 28 14.3% 9 33.7%

Citizen children in:

Naturalized families

215 342 38.7% 0 0.0%

LPR families

22 31 3.6% 0 0.0%

Refugee families

6 6 0.7% 0 0.0%

Other alien families

261 404 45.7% 2 0.0%

Undocumented families

72 100 11.4% 0 0.0%

* Native-born adults are primarily spouses or other family members of foreign-born adults
** Includes those originally admitted as refugees or asylees, who are not naturalized
*** Includes those with temporary work visas, student visas, PRUCOL, etc.
**** Sample does not fully represent native-born elderly people living in immigrant households
X' Denotes small sample size.
Source: Urban Institute, Los Angeles New York City Immigration Survey (LANYCIS)

Many immigrant families have members who are not foreign-born. Indeed, in both cities roughly a third of the members are native-born citizens, giving testament to the importance and scope of mixed-status families (Fix and Zimmermann 1999). Similarly, there are substantial numbers of naturalized citizens: 1.1 million in Los Angeles County and about 900,000 in New York City. Importantly for the policy issues discussed in this report, there are roughly 1 million LPRs in each city. New York has more refugees than Los Angeles (300,000 versus 200,000), but Los Angeles has more than three times as many undocumented immigrants as New York: 900,000 compared to 250,000.

Thus, the legal status composition of immigrant families differs between the two cities. The share who are LPRs, refugees, naturalized citizens, or other legal immigrants is larger in New York City than Los Angeles, which has more native citizens and undocumented aliens in these immigrant families.

The children of immigrants are disproportionately native citizens (84 percent in Los Angeles and 80 percent in New York), highlighting the differences in legal status of parents and children in immigrant families.(12) We have described the immigration status of children in terms of both their own status and their parents' immigration status (e.g., citizen children with LPR or undocumented parents).(13) This was done because most children were native citizens, but there are still important policy distinctions that might differentiate these children, depending on whether their parents are naturalized citizens, LPRs, or undocumented.

Table 1.1 also shows the number of people who are post-enactment immigrants.(14) A large number of the recent immigrants are either undocumented or other legal immigrants (e.g., on temporary visas). Much of the focus of federal eligibility changes for immigrants concerns post-enactment LPRs and refugees. However, as mentioned earlier, the number of post-enactment legal immigrants is likely grow steadily over time as new immigrants are admitted.

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