Forty-nine percent of California's children ages 12 and 17 have at least one immigrant parent, a phenomenon that could dramatically change the composition of the state's electorate within several years, according to a report released Tuesday.
Of these 1.2 million children, 84 percent are U.S. citizens, either because they were born here or were naturalized, said Rob Paral, a Chicago-based demographic researcher who prepared the report, "Integration Potential of California's Immigrants and their Children." The report predicts that as these children turn 18, they could help fuel a rise in immigrant voters by 2012.
About 6.5 million immigrants in California are U.S. citizens or could be, according to the report. By 2012, these adults and citizen children who have become adults could total 7.7 million "potential future voters," or 29 percent of the electorate if they register.
Paral is a research fellow at Notre Dame University's Institute for Latino Studies and at the American Immigration Law Foundation in Washington, D.C.
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His firm prepared the report for Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, a national network that advises foundations and communities interested in policies to incorporate immigrants into civic life.
"It's jaw-dropping," Paral said of the number of California kids who are close to "the immigrant experience." He estimated that Latinos, who form the largest legal immigrant group in California, make up two-thirds of the children ages 12 to 17 in immigrant families.
Paral also found that 93 percent of Asian children in California have at least one immigrant parent.
"Having grown up in an immigrant family," the report predicts, "these future voters are likely to be sympathetic toward policies that promote immigrant integration."
Paral's findings are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the bureau's 2006 American Community Survey, as well as figures from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.