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Wednesday, November 27, 2002


Immigration to the US has not reduced as a result of the September 11 attacks and the economic slowdown, according to a report released yesterday. The Centre for Immigration Studies, an essentially anti-immigrant group that wants less immigration to the US, said more than 3.3m legal and illegal immigrants entered the country between January 2000 and March 2002. Using data collected last spring by the census bureau, it found that 33.1m legal and illegal immigrants live in the US, an increase of 2m since the last census in 2000.The CIS defines immigrants as people who are foreign-born but does not include those born overseas to US parents.

Immigrants make up 11.5 per cent of the population and are the main drivers of US population growth, according to the report. (What the report doesn't note of course is that this means they are the principal source of potential new labour market entrants, and hence a potentially important driver of US economic growth). The report suggests that the immigrant population has reached "historically unprecedented" levels and stands at more than twice the figure of 13.5m attained during the last great wave of immigration, in 1910. California has the highest percentage of immigrants, with West Virgninia the lowest. Mexicans are the biggest group, making up almost three-tenths of the immigrant population, with those from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong the next largest group, at 4.5 per cent of the immigrant population.

Among other report findings of note are the fact that the arrival of 1.5 million immigrants each year, coupled with 750,000 births to immigrant women annually, means that immigration policy is adding over two million people to the U.S. population each year, accounting for at least two-thirds of U.S. population growth. At the same time, although immigration has a very large effect on the overall size of the U.S. population, it has a much more modest effect on the age structure in the United States. The nearly 16 million immigrants who arrived in the United States since 1990 have lowered the average age in the United States by only four months. Further, immigration accounts for virtually all of the national increase in public school enrollment over the last two decades. In 2002, there were 9.7 million school-age children from immigrant families in the United States. Whatever the intentions of this body, the report contains some interesting and revealing information.

An analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies of the Current Population Survey (CPS) collected in March of this year by the Census Bureau indicates that 33.1 million immigrants (legal and illegal) live in the United States, an increase of two million just since the last Census. The March CPS includes an extra-large sample of minorities and is considered one of the best sources for information on persons born outside of the United States — referred to as foreign-born by the Census Bureau.1 For the purposes of this report, foreign-born and immigrant are used synonymously.2 The questions asked in the CPS are much more extensive than those in the decennial census, and therefore it can be used to provide a detailed picture of the nation’s population, including information about welfare use, health insurance coverage, poverty rates, entrepreneurship, and many other characteristics. The purpose of this Backgrounder is to examine immigration’s impact on the United States so as to better inform the debate over what kind of immigration policy should be adopted in the future.
Source: Centre for Immigration Studies

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