How Are Immigrants Faring After Welfare Reform?. Type and Number of Immigrants


In general, the survey can be considered representative of all immigrant households in the two areas, although there are small exceptions discussed in Appendix 1. It focused on immigrant households  those that contain people with diverse legal statuses. For readers less familiar with complex immigration terminology and concepts, the box on the following page contains a few somewhat simplified definitions.

In this report, the term "immigrant" means a foreign-born person in the United States, who may be either a naturalized citizen or a noncitizen (either undocumented, temporary or permanent resident).(10) This differs somewhat from the terminology used by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), which uses "immigrant" to mean those who are lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence. Our definition encompasses undocumented aliens and people with temporary status, while INS would consider them illegal residents and non-immigrants (since those with temporary visas are not admitted as residents). We use "immigrant" to encompass all families in the LANYCIS sample and to correspond to the broader, non-technical use of the word. We apologize for any confusion, but note that most tables in this report provide more detailed classifications of immigration status, which should make this problem less severe. We also note that some members of immigrant families are native citizens, including U.S.-born spouses of immigrants or their children. While we provide detailed data about citizen children, in most tables we exclude data about native citizen adults in immigrant families because the main focus of interest is adults who are immigrants themselves.

Sometimes, we use the phrase "noncitizen" which means foreign-born people who have not become naturalized citizens. This includes legal permanent residents, refugees, undocumented aliens and other legal immigrants.

Immigration status was self-reported. Because most of the data collection was done over the telephone, it was not possible to ask for or inspect immigration documents. Immigration rules are complex and can be confusing, and thus, respondents may have given erroneous answers. For example, a person might enter the United States because of fear of persecution in his or her home country and describe himself or herself as a refugee, yet not be officially recognized as a refugee by the INS. As described in Appendix 2, we recoded a limited number of responses. For example, a person who said they entered on a tourist visa several years ago and who reported no other immigration documentation was reclassified as an undocumented alien.

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