Mixed-status Families: Many Californians live in households with family members who have different citizenship or immigration statuses.

Insights and Analyses

  • Immigration enforcement policies targeting undocumented individuals have ripple effects on their families, including children—many who are U.S. citizens. In 2019, 20% of all individuals under 18 in California were living in mixed-status families, meaning they were undocumented themselves or living with someone who was.

  • Across California, as of 2019, more than 3 million people (U.S. citizens and lawful residents) live in mixed-status families with undocumented immigrants.

  • Among those living in families, Latinos and Asian Americans are the groups with the largest share of individuals who were undocumented themselves or living with someone who was: nearly 30% of Latinos and 13% of Asian Americans statewide as of 2019.

  • The “public charge” rule has long created “chilling effects” for immigrant communities, meaning that many immigrants and their families are dissuaded from accessing services or resources due to fear of jeopardizing their path to legal status —even when the public charge rule does not apply to them. Under the Trump administration, changes to the 1999 definition of “public charge” expanded the list of services that would be deemed a public charge, creating further confusion and challenges for immigrant families. Research conducted by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that in 2019, prior to the changes issued under the Trump administration, 1 in 4 low-income immigrant adults in California already did not use public benefits—such as Medicaid assistance—out of fear and confusion. In March 2021, the Biden administration halted compliance with the Trump-era rule and on September 2022 published a final “public charge” rule set to go into effect on December 23, 2022, codifying the 1999 rule and applying some protections for immigrants. Yet, the impact of the changes under the Trump administration will be long-lasting and many organizations and advocates continue to urge the government against enforcing exclusionary immigration policies such as this one.

  • The impact of deportations has ripple effects beyond the individual, affecting households, extended family members, neighbors, employers, and employees. A national study in 2017 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York assessed the economic impact of removing an undocumented resident from a mixed-status household and revealed that the median household income can decrease from $41,300 to $22,000, pushing families further into poverty.

  • Beyond the economic impacts, deportations cause family separation, which creates long-term psychological, social, and health problems for children and families that extends beyond reunification—as found in 2018 by the Society for Research in Child Development.

The efforts to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program have threatened the livelihood of 185,000 young undocumented immigrants in California who are DACA recipients.

Implemented in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this program allows a fraction of undocumented youth in the U.S. to defer their deportation, apply for a work permit, and apply for advanced parole (a travel abroad permit under specific circumstances). Existing research shows that DACA allows young undocumented individuals to participate in and contribute to the labor market, pursue higher education, and contribute to the local, regional, and national economy. A 2021 report by the Center for American Progress on DACA recipients in the U.S. found that 79.8% of their study’s respondents, ages 25 and older, were employed. Further, research underscores the life course timing of DACA and the greater social inclusion and benefits within reach for younger recipients. In 2017, the Trump administration made its first attempt to rescind the program. Since then the program continues to be disputed in the courts, despite the U.S. Supreme Court deeming the manner of the program’s termination unlawful in June 2020 and the Biden administration’s attempt to restore the program in January 2021.

In July 2021, in Texas, et al., v. Texas or ‘ the Texas case’ that is ongoing, Texas federal district Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the DACA program violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and was therefore unconstitutional. This ruling was appealed and remains under review at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Prior to that, in December 2020 in another case, Batalla Vidal et al. v. Mayorkas, et al., or ‘the New York case,’ the District Court for the Eastern District of New York ruled that the federal government fully reinstate DACA and accept DACA requests by new applicants and advance parolees. However, following the Texas case ruling (July 2021) and in the midst of its appeal, there was a pause on accepting all first-time DACA applicants, including 78,000 new applications that were submitted between the New York and Texas case rulings (December 2020 and July 2021). The legality of this move, to halt the process for these cases specifically, continued to be disputed in the New York case and on August 3, 2022, the Eastern District of New York released its decision, denying the request to provide provisional relief for this subset of cases. As of September 2022, all first-time DACA applications are still pending, while only DACA renewals are being processed. Further, on August 24, 2022, DHS issued a final rule that codifies the DACA policy outlined in 2012 with some limited changes. Effective October 31, 2022, only DACA renewals will continue to be accepted, as the injunction from the July 2021 Texas case still prevents USCIS from accepting first-time DACA applications.

While granting temporary relief for a subset of youth, DACA does not provide a pathway toward legal permanent status or citizenship, leaving many and their futures in limbo. In addition, it is important to consider the pool of young undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for the program and those that are still unable to file a first-time DACA application. Beyond the fight to preserve DACA, immigrant families have also been advocating for comprehensive solutions that lead to permanent legal status and citizenship for all. To access ERI’s interactive maps on DACA eligible individuals, DACA recipients, and the economic contributions by U.S. Congressional District, visit our site. For updates on the status of the program and policy proposals visit the National Immigration Law Center (NILC).

Source: USC Equity Research Institute analysis of 2018 5-year American Community Survey microdata from IPUMS USA. Note: Data represent a 2014-2018 average. Overall population numbers may be slightly higher than in usually reported statistics because of adjusted weights used to account for undercount of undocumented Californians.

Photo credit: United We Dream

The Mixteco/Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), is one key organization advocating for and supporting Indigenous migrant youth in California’s Central Coast.

Organizations like MICOP and others estimate that there are about 20,000 Indigenous migrants from Mexico living in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. Work by scholars sheds light on the challenges and discrimination that indigenous youth face—particularly in their studies, by peers, and in the school system, more broadly. One of these challenges is a lack of access to resources necessary for language acquisition and accessibility. Historically many Indigenous migrants have been misrecognized as Latinx and believed to be Spanish speakers, when in reality many are not proficient in English and/or Spanish. This has contributed to a widespread lack of educational and language infrastructure even in areas with more concentrated Indigenous migrant populations. It is not uncommon then for Indigenous migrant youth to be tracked into special education classes, even when they may not have a disability, hindering their academic progression and participation in the U.S. school system. Further, communication between parents and schools can often depend on whether translation is available and this ultimately limits parents’ ability to advocate on behalf of their children. An article by Cal Matters shed light on similar issues that were compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic when schools transitioned to remote learning.

For two Indigenous migrant youth featured in the article, and like many others, at the onset of the pandemic, they turned to working in the fields to assist their parents who experienced either job loss or contracted the virus. This challenge coupled with linguistic and digital divide barriers, impacted their education. The two sisters are members of the Tequio Youth Group, a program of MICOP, a grassroots organization based in Oxnard that is working to support, organize, and empower Indigenous migrants throughout the state’s Central Coast. This youth group focuses on leadership development to promote Indigenous pride; promotes educational attainment; and advocates against bullying. For example, in 2012, members of the youth group, advocated for the implementation of a policy prohibiting the use of derogatory terms used against Indigenous students in local school districts. Between 2014-2015, youth also partook in the “Fields to College” campaign, advocating for language resources for both students and their parents in the Oxnard Union High School District. In addition, the group established the Tequio Scholarship Fund to provide funding to Indigenous college students in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. In general, it is important to note that shared languages and culture are critical components of the organization that have allowed them to build trust with community members given that as of 2021, 85% of MICOP’s staff are from the Indigenous communities the organization intends to serve. To learn more about MICOP visit their site here. Read more about MICOP’s other efforts during the pandemic here.

Photo credit: MICOP

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