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Report: Almost 8-million illegal immigrants in U.S.

Almost a quarter of people working in private households in the United States are illegal immigrants, as are about half the country's farmworkers and 9 percent of its restaurant employees, a report says.

The analysis by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center offers a detailed look at the nation's illegal immigrants, estimated at almost 8-million people, and demonstrates how much certain industries rely on the country's approximately 5.3-million undocumented workers.

The report estimated Mexicans make up 58 percent of the undocumented population, while Central Americans account for about a fifth.

The estimates illustrate that "the idea of creating a program to legalize the unauthorized work force is an endeavor of enormous scope, and significantly larger than the last go-around," said Roberto Suro, director of the research group, referring to a 1986 amnesty that granted legal status to almost 3-million undocumented immigrants.

Suro said the economy's growth in the 1990s created high demand for unauthorized workers.

The report relies on such information as census figures, Immigration and Naturalization Service data, and employment estimates for various industries.

It estimated that 24 percent of private household workers, including maids and nannies, are undocumented.

Seventeen percent of those in the business services industry, which includes maintenance workers and employees in mailing houses, advertising and credit reporting companies, are undocumented. The report also said 6 percent of those in construction and manufacturing are undocumented.

Agriculture relies most heavily on undocumented workers _ 47 percent of the2.5-million U.S. farmworkers are undocumented, according to the report.

Cecilia Munoz, a vice president at the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group, said the estimates could help define discussions about legalization.

"This is the first time we've been able to quantify the estimates," she said.