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Sunday, May 23, 2004

Immigrant Children Most Likely to be Poor

Pasadena Star-News - News

Immigrant children most likely to be poor
By Jason Kosareff and Gema Duarte , Staff Writers

Children of immigrant families are three times more likely to be poor, according to a study by Oakland-based Children Now.

The study, released earlier this month, said 48 percent of children in California live in a household with at least one immigrant parent.

Those children are less likely to have proper access to health care or child care than American-born children.

But researchers at Children Now found immigrant parents are more likely to be married and working full time than native-born parents.

The study found 35 percent of children whose parents are immigrants live below the federal poverty level, compared to 11 percent of native-born children.

"When we talk about children in immigrant families, we're talking about the average California child,' said Catherine Teare, director of policy for Children Now.

The Mayorga family of South El Monte are typical of immigrants who struggle to raise children in this country.

Enedina Mayorga, 29, em igrated from Jalisco, Mexico, 10 years ago, but it was not until she married Martin Gonzalez, 41, that she was able to apply for a green card.

Gonzalez is a legal resident. He worked a full-time job until he was injured two years ago. Now the family of five relies on Gonzalez's workers' compensation and aid from charity groups.

Three of her children were born in the United States, but her eldest, Erika Mayorga, 11, was born in Mexico and is unable to receive medical services, because like her mother, she is an illegal resident.

For the Mayorgas, being an illegal resident means no work or education.

"I can't work because I don't have my papers (green card). And I'm concerned for my daughter. It will be hard for her to get work after she is 18 years old, if she is still not legal in this country,' she said in Spanish.

"Not only won't she be able to find work, but she can't continue school after high school.'

The Mayorgas, like thousands of immigrant families in the region, rely on aid from the El Monte/South El Monte Emergency Resource Association, said Lillian Rey, director of the organization.

Local advocates for the poor and homeless say they see children from all nationalities in need of food and basic services.

The East San Gabriel Valley Coalition for the Homeless served 200 children this year at its cold weather shelter.

Most of the children are second- generation citizens, usually of Latino descent, McKennon said.

When families show up at the shelter, they are given a meal and a voucher to a motel. This year saw a steep increase in the number of children at the shelter, McKennon said.

"We know that this is going to increase,' he added.

Joan Whitenack, director of the Foothill Unity Center in Monrovia, said her organization serves the poor and homeless food no matter what their nationality.

But Whitenack knows more than 50 percent of those who come to Foothill Unity Center at 415 W. Chestnut Ave. are Latino.

"And we're seeing more Asians,' she said.

A copy of the study is available at www.childrennow.org.

-- Jason Kosareff can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2717, or by e-mail at jason.kosareff@sgvn.com .

-- Gema Duarte can be reached at Ext. 2123, or by e-mail at gema.duarte@sgvn.com .

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