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Study Sheds Light On Mid-City’s ‘Unauthorized, Uninsured’ Immigrants

Above: Pictured in this undated photo is Norma Navarro with her 7-year-old son, Angel, and 10-year-old daughter, Aneth. Angel is a citizen but Aneth is not, meaning they'll have significantly different health care experiences.

Special Feature Speak City Heights

Speak City Heights is a media collaborative aimed at amplifying the voices of residents in one of San Diego’s most diverse neighborhoods. (Read more)

Aired 2/17/15 on KPBS News.

The U.S. Census can give us a pretty accurate idea of how many people are living illegally in the United States, but drill down to the neighborhood level and the margin of error widens.

The U.S. Census can give us a pretty accurate idea of how many people are living illegally in the United States, but drill down to the neighborhood level and the margin of error widens.

Now, a San Diego State University researcher is working to give social workers and policymakers in City Heights a more accurate picture of the immigrant population there.

Demographer Enrico Marcelli combined community-based surveys and Census data to show 10 percent of City Heights residents are living in the country illegally, and one in four children there have at least one such parent. Seventy-five percent of those children are U.S. citizens.

RELATED: Multi-Status Families Brace For Health Care Reform

Marcelli's findings come as advocates are pushing state lawmakers this month to authorize public health coverage for immigrants whose legal status precludes them from Medi-Cal and Covered California subsidies.

"Knowing that a higher percentage of unauthorized immigrants in City Heights — 69 percent — lack insurance, compared to other unauthorized immigrants throughout the county, raises the question of, 'Why is it higher in City Heights where there are presumably more community-based organizations which can help?'" Marcelli said.

Marcelli is diving back into his data to answer that question and others, but suggests City Heights immigrants are less likely to have jobs with benefits.

Those living in the country illegally are eligible for private insurance but not federally subsidized care. A state bill that would extend Affordable Care Act plans to them died in committee last year. State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) has introduced a similar bill this year.

Marcelli's study was funded by The California Endowment, which also funds KPBS's City Heights coverage.

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