At Least 12% Congress Members in U.S. Have Immigrant Roots: Report

At least 65 out of 529 Congress members in the United States have their roots in another country, according to a Pew Research Center report.


As the United States continues to debate over stricter immigration laws, a recent analysis by Pew Research Center has revealed that at least 12 percent of the country’s voting members of the Congress are either first generation immigrants or the children of immigrant parents. Of these 12 percent members, five persons are of Indian origin. 

At least 65 out of 529 voting Congress members have their roots in another country, according to the report. Either one or both of the parents of these members belongs to a foreign nation, the list showed. 

The analysis is based on biographical information from the Congressional Research Service, published news stories, and members’ official websites and genealogical records through Aug. 17. 

The list published with the analysis shows that five of these members have their ancestral roots in India. All the five politicians — Ami Bera, Kamala Harris, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Raja Krishnamoorthi — belong to the Democratic Party. While Jayapal and Krishnamoorthi are first generation immigrants, all the other three members are second generation immigrants. Krishnamoorthi moved to the United States with his parents when he was three months old, while Chennai-born Jayapal, who grew up in Singapore and Indonesia, arrived in the United States as a 16-year-old student.  

The 115th Congress includes 12 members born outside the United States — 11 representatives and one senator, Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, who was born in Japan. At least 53 members were born in the country or its territories to at least one immigrant parent. Most of the first- and second-generation immigrants in the Congress belong to the Democratic Party. Only 13 out of 65 members are from the Republican Party while one person is an independent. 

“First- or second-generation immigrants in Congress represent 23 different states. California has by far the most: At least 19 of the state’s 53 House members – more than a third – are immigrants or the children of immigrants, as is Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris, whose mother emigrated to the U.S. from India and whose father emigrated from Jamaica. New York and Florida each have five first- or second-generation immigrants among their members of Congress; Maryland and Illinois each have four,” the report said. 

This analysis showed that seven of the 11 foreign-born House members emigrated from Latin American or Caribbean countries (three from Mexico, two from Cuba, one from the Dominican Republic and one from Guatemala), while the other four hailed from different Asian countries and territories (India, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam). 

Also, among the second-generation lawmakers, most of them (83%) have European lineage, followed by Caribbean, Latin American and Asian heritage. These families come from 30 countries and territories, including Mexico (10 lawmakers), Cuba (seven), Germany (six), and Canada, India and Jamaica (three each). 

In the current Congress, several second-generation legislators’ parents settled in the United States to evade oppressive regimes or religious violence. 

According to the U.S. Constitution, an immigrant is eligible to take office in the House provided he has been a U.S. citizen for seven years or more. He should be at least 25 years old and living in the state of his/her election. For serving in the Senate, the candidate requires nine years of citizenship and minimum age of 30 years. People born outside the United States can make their way to the House or Senate but they cannot become president.

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