NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Rate of Immigration to the U.S. Highest in 150 Years

June 5, 2002

The United States is accepting immigrants at a faster rate than at any time since the 1850s, according to 2000 census data. Supporters of stricter limits on immigration say the figures indicate the challenge of integrating tens of millions of newcomers into American society -- challenges that will only grow if current policies remain in place.

Immigration supporters say that the 1990s prove the success of American immigration policies, and because the country attracts immigrants at all levels it helps the U.S. maintain its economic, political and cultural edge.

Nearly 52 percent of immigrants come from Latin American countries, and they are less skilled than previous waves of immigrants from Europe and Asia.

  • The 31.3 million foreign-born U.S. residents counted in the 2000 census amounted to 11.3 million more than were tallied in 1990.
  • They comprise 11.1 percent of the U.S. population -- or one in every nine residents.
  • In addition to the 51.7 percent of immigrants living in the U.S. in 2000 who were from Latin America, 26.4 percent were Asiatics, 15.8 percent from Europe, 2.8 percent from Africa, 2.7 percent from Canada and 0.5 percent from Oceania.

The overall percentage of foreign-born who have become citizens -- 40.3 percent -- is about the same as previous cohorts. Immigration supporters say this shows that new immigrants are just as interested as becoming part of the political process and in being productive members of their community.

Source: Stephen Dinan, "Immigration Growth of '90s at Highest Rate in 150 Years," Washington Times, June 5, 2002.


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