Jewish Journal

Israeli Undocumented Immigrants Likely Not Influencing Rise in U.S. Undocumented

by Pini Herman

September 25, 2013 | 11:58 am

Undocumented Israeli Roy Naim Appeared in Time Magazine was Recently Arrested

The Orthodox Jewish Justice group, Uri L’Tzedek, and the secular Bend the Arc are calling for support of the immigration rights movement's call for a day of dignity and respect by participating in national Immigration Shabbat on this coming October 5.

The total number of immigrants living in this country unlawfully edged up from 11.3 million in 2009 to 11.7 million last year, with those from countries other than Mexico at an apparent all-time high, according to a report released this Monday by the Pew Research Center's Hispanic Trends Project.

Based on earlier estimates of the Jewish Israeli-born population in the U.S. I would estimate that currently there are something less than a thousand undocumented Israelis who have lived in the U.S. for over a year and I would be greatly surprised if there were over a hundred living in the Los Angeles area and over two hundred in all of California.  The undocumented Jewish Israeli immigrant is somewhat of a rare bird. Such is a rare bird who appears in the above photo and later received much sought after and unsought after publicity is described later in this blog.

The rarity of the undocumented Israeli immigrant was originally shown during the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 eligibilty period when only a handful of Israelis applied for amnesty under the law. A new Global Religion and Migration Database constructed by the Pew Research Center has shed new light confirming years of research showing that only modest numbers of Israeli-born Jews have emigrated from Israel. According to the survey, only 230,000 Jews born in Israel are living in other parts of the world, about 4% of Israel’s Jewish population. In fact, the new data confirms that Israel, at 4%, has retained its Jewish native-born population at a higher rate, usually double the average 8% retention of native borns of most other countries in the world.

Even with these modest Israeli numbers, there are also undocumented Jews in the United States from the FSU, Iran and Jewish communities in Europe and other parts of the world are among the undocumented.  Israeli born Roy Naim wrote in Haaretz about how he was brought to the U.S. by his parents as a child from Israel. Naim, whose story was covered by Time Magazine in it's comver story on undocumented brought as children to the U.S.15 months ago and recently arrested for downloading child pornography.     

Only recently has California passed legislation that enable undocumented to obtain a driver license and it remains impossible for undocumented oo in most other states. Becoming an employee is illegal, but working for oneself is legal and therefore it is not uncommon for undocumented Jews to attempt setting up a small business when they are able to, and when the business grows it is not illegal to employ others who do have the legal right to work in the U.S.

More directly, many Jewish households and businesses are dependent on workers who may not have legal status, especially with regard to household domestic workers who housekeep, care for children and the elderly and are heavily in the service and construction industries. The rising numbers of undocumented for the first time since the 2008 economic recession has been just announced by the Pew Hispanic Research Center and it is currently credited in large part to the revival of job opportunities, especially in the construction trades.

Pini Herman, PhD. specializes in demographics, big data and predictive analysis, has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position and is a past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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