- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

President Obama arrived in Mexico for a visit Thursday but he could have stayed home if he was looking for a Mexican audience.

A record 12.7 million Mexican immigrants lived in the U.S. in 2008, a 17-fold increase since 1970, according to a study released Thursday by the Pew Hispanic Center.

“About 11 percent of everyone born in Mexico is currently living in the U.S.,” the study said.

Mexicans now account for 32 percent of all immigrants living in this country - which continues to be a haven for the world’s tired, huddled masses.

“No other country in the world has as many total immigrants from all countries as the United States has immigrants from Mexico alone. Other than the United States, the country that hosts the largest number of immigrants is Russia, with 12 million foreign born,” the study said.

The majority of Mexican citizens in the U.S. - 55 percent - are here illegally. And Mexicans comprise a majority (59 percent) of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now within our borders.

Overall, illegal immigrants are more geographically dispersed throughout the country; and while they must cope with poverty and a lack of health insurance, many live in traditional families. Also growing is the number of “anchor babies,” the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants whose place of birth automatically entitles them to American citizenship, an “anchor” for the rest of the family to stay in the United States.

Illegal immigrants “are more likely than either U.S.-born residents or legal immigrants to live in a household with a spouse and children. In addition, a growing share of the children of unauthorized immigrant parents - 73 percent - were born in this country and are U.S. citizens,” the study said.

According to the study, 59 percent of the illegal-immigrant population have no health insurance and 11 percent have incomes below the poverty level. The median income is $36,000 a year.

And while they can be found in all 50 states, California, Texas, New York and Florida are still the top destinations. Less likely spots such as New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Idaho and Missouri now hold from 25,000 to 45,000 illegal immigrants each.

The study also found that 8.3 million are employed in the U.S., with heavy concentration in the service or production industries, construction and farming.

The study is based on Bureau of Labor Satistics and Census Bureau data from 80,000 households across the country during March.