- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 7, 2002

A record 56 million immigrants and their children reside in the United States, which means they now make up one-fifth of the U.S. population, the Census Bureau reports.
An analysis of data from the March 2000 Current Population Survey that is being released today shows the number of foreign-born residents and their U.S.-born children has risen by 22 million in three decades. Dianne Schmidley, author of the study, predicts the figure "is likely to rise in the future as recent immigrants form families."
The Census Bureau's study does not include data obtained from the 2000 census, nor is it based on information developed in a "supplemental" survey conducted simultaneously with the regular census. Demographers and immigration analysts predict that when the numbers from those surveys are examined, they will show that the number of foreign-born and their children is much higher than the release today indicates.
An analysis by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Immigration Studies puts the number of foreign-born residents not including their offspring at 30.1 million, nearly 3 million more than the 28.4 million reported by the release.
Even the 28.4 million figure represents a tripling of the immigrant population in the last three decades; it means that now at least 11 percent of the nation's residents are immigrants.
"We've seen a dramatic change in the foreign-born population in one generation. It has gone from less than 5 percent in the 1970s to 11 percent in 2000. That's a rapid change in the nature of a country's population," says Urban Institute demographer Jeffrey S. Passel.
But, Mr. Passel points out, "By historical standards, 11 percent of the population is not especially high. In the years between 1870 and 1920, the percentage ranged from 13 to 15 percent."
In those decades, however, the actual number of people who made up what was then called "foreign stock" was comparatively low and vast expanses of the still-developing country were underpopulated.
The Census Bureau report explains that a fifth of all infants born in the United States are now the offspring of immigrants. In the 1970s just 5 percent of U.S. births were to foreign-born mothers. Of the 11.5 million youngsters now living with foreign-born parents, 80 percent were born in this country.
The immigrant population tends to be young. In 2000, 21 percent of the U.S. population under 25 years old was either foreign-born or born to immigrants. In 1970, that figure was 7 percent.
Charles Christian, a social geographer at the University of Maryland, says high immigration rates will undoubtedly continue, although they may taper off if proposals to tighten border and visa controls in the wake of the September 11 attacks actually are enacted.
"People will keeping coming here because for many in the world the streets of major U.S. cities are still paved with gold not real gold but real opportunity and America has repeatedly demonstrated its tolerance," he said.
"Although the most compassionate nation can't harbor all who wish to come," he added, "America is hardly likely to impose the kind of quotas enacted in the 1920s to reduce the alien population."


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