- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

The U.S. foreign-born population has reached a record high, though the rate at which people come to the United States has slowed considerably, the government reports.
Experts suggest that the downward trend may partly be attributed to the faltering economy and the fallout from the September 11 attacks.
Census Bureau estimates being released today show that there were about 32.5 million foreign-born residents in the United States in March 2002, 2 percent more than the 31.8 million in the previous March.
The growth rate had been three times greater between March 2000 and 2001.
About 1.2 million people arrived in the country in the 12 months ending in March 2002, compared with 2.4 million the previous year, according to demographer William Frey, who analyzed the figures.
Besides new arrivals, the estimates also account for deaths and those who left the United States.
The government has been working to close immigration loopholes and provide closer scrutiny of those admitted to the country after the attacks. That, coupled with a slowing economy, may have caused some would-be immigrants to stay home, said Mr. Frey, who works at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
But he and other experts said additional factors also played a role.
For instance, immigration officials in 2001 reduced a backlog in visa applications, which could have led to an artificially high number of new immigrants, said Angela Kelley, deputy director of National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group.
The Census Bureau surveyed 85,000 households last March. As in political polls, the census estimates have margins of error, which mean that the actual results may be slightly higher or lower.
Still, there is ample evidence for a decline, though it is likely to be a temporary blip, said Steven Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies. For many immigrants, concerns about the recession and government crackdowns pale in comparison with the desire to seek a better life in the United States.
"You would have to change policy and begin a vigorous enforcement effort across the board in order to reduce immigration," said Mr. Camarota, whose group favors more curbs on immigration.

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