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Immigrant numbers in Texas schools debated

DALLAS, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The proportion of illegal immigrants attending Texas schools is no more than 8 percent, and probably a good deal lower, records show.

Ninety-two percent of schoolchildren have Social Security numbers on file, indicating they are in the country legally, The Dallas Morning News reported Saturday. That means Texas has at most 400,000 illegal immigrant students, who cost $3.5 billion annually to educate.

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The real numbers are probably much lower because districts cannot make parents provide Social Security numbers.

"Eight percent is a ceiling, but it's a high ceiling," said Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.

Passel estimates there were 150,000 illegal immigrants in Texas schools in 2009, including a few who attended private schools. He derived his figures from U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor surveys.

A bill has been filed for the next Texas legislative session that would make districts request proof of legal status and report the number of illegal immigrants in their schools. Similar measures have failed in the past.

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