Foreign-born population tops 34
million, study finds
Nov. 23, 2004
Genaro C. Armas
WASHINGTON - More than 34 million
U.S. residents were born outside the United States, with arrivals from Mexico
driving much of the growth in the foreign-born population since 2000, a private
research group says.
The foreign-born population grew at a clip of over 1 million a year between 2000
and 2004, even though the U.S. economy was suffering, according to the analysis
being released Tuesday by the Center for Immigration Studies, which favors
stricter immigration policies.
That pace was roughly equal to the growth rate between 1996 and 2000, when the
economy was on the upswing.
It is more evidence that stricter immigration enforcement after the Sept. 11
attacks did little to stop the influx of immigrants, said Steve Camarota, who
wrote the report. Often the worst of economic conditions in America are still
better than the financial situations in an immigrant's native country.
"There's a lack of appreciation of the fundamental role of enforcement and
failure to understand the limits of bureaucratic capacity," Camarota said of
current Bush administration proposals to address immigration.
Immigrants serve a vital need by taking jobs in fast-growing sectors like the
construction and service industries, said Roberto Suro, director of the Pew
Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group.
Recent immigrants may be more willing to settle or relocate in areas of the
country, where jobs are plentiful, than unemployed people born in the United
States, he added.
"I'd be surprised if there was a one-to-one displacement of immigrant and
native-born workers," Suro said. "This is a big economy in such a diverse
The report comes days after President Bush discussed immigration with Mexican
President Vicente Fox and other Latin American leaders in meetings abroad.
Bush renewed a call for Congress to back a proposal he unveiled last year that
would allow millions of undocumented laborers to work legally in the United
States on temporary visas but would not provide a path to
Nearly 10.5 million U.S. residents are from Mexico. That is close to one-third
of the total U.S. foreign-born population, up from about one-sixth in 1980.
Overall, more than 9 million immigrants in the United States are illegal, with
almost 2 million entering since 2000, Camarota estimated.
The Census Bureau does not ask if someone is in the country illegally. The last
estimate of the undocumented population from federal immigration officials,
released in 2003, placed the number at 7 million in 2000, most of them Mexican.
On the Net:
Center for Immigration Studies:
NEW HOME: More than 34 million U.S. residents were born outside the United
States as of March, according to a research organization that favors stricter
STEADY FLOW: The foreign-born population grew annually by more than 1 million
between 2000 and 2004, a period of tough economic times. That's roughly equal to
the growth rate between 1996 and 2000, during a better economy.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER: Nearly 10.5 million U.S. residents are from Mexico, or
nearly one-third of the total U.S. foreign-born population.