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1 in 3 foreign-born residents in 2000 from Mexico
Gannett News Service
September 5, 2003

WASHINGTON - Immigrants from Mexico topped the list of foreign-born residents in 30 states in 2000, up from 18 states in 1990, according to a report to be released today by a group that advocates restricting immigration to the United States.

The report by the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies found that the number of Mexicans has climbed steadily over the past three decades and accounted for almost 1 in 3 foreign-born U.S. residents in 2000. The report was based on the most recent Census Bureau data from 2000.

Steven Camarota, an analyst with the center and the report's co-author, said the foreign-born population in the United States has grown larger than ever, drawing people from every corner of the world. But he said Spanish-speaking immigrants, mainly from Mexico, make up a larger share of all immigrants.

"One country, Mexico, and one region, Spanish-speaking Latin America, dominated U.S. immigration during the 1990s," Camarota said.

Almost 46 percent of the 31 million immigrants in the United States in 2000 hailed from Latin America, including El Salvador, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. About 23 percent came from Asia and 16 percent from Europe, the report said.

Camarota said other immigrants, specifically Germans and Italians, dominated the pool of foreign-born residents during much of the last century, but no single country had ever held a larger share than that of Mexico.

Up until 2000, the highest percentage of immigrants from one country had been Germans, who constituted 25 percent of all immigrants in 1900. But in 2000 Mexicans accounted for 30 percent of all U.S. foreign-born residents, up from 22 percent in 1990. Germans are no longer among the top 10
immigrant groups in the United States.

The group wanted to call attention to the lack of diversity among the nation's nearly 31 million foreign-born residents, said Camarota.

However, it is opposed to a bill pending in the House and Senate that would provide temporary work visas to foreign workers, including illegal immigrants from Mexico. Three Arizona Republican lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain, are sponsoring the measure.

A larger and less diverse immigrant group, concluded Camarota, might have its benefits but at the same time prove burdensome for U.S. society. He said providing public services may be easier when newly arrived immigrants speak a single language, but that such immigrants may not assimilate as well as other immigrant groups.

Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant group, said the report was puzzling because it implies that Spanish-speaking immigrants are not integrating into U.S. society and do not want to learn English.

"That flies into the face of all of America's historical experience," she said. "All immigrants know the key to success in America is learning English."