The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the nation’s foreign-born population was 33.5 million in 2003—nearly 12 percent of the total population—and more than half of those were Hispanics.
The 2003 figure was up from 32.5 million, or 11.5 percent, in 2002; 28.4 million, or 10.4 percent, in 2000; and 26.4 million, or 9.7 percent, in 1999.
“For the foreign-born population in the United States to be growing by 1 million a year is an enormous increase, when [immigrants] are dying every year and others are going back home,” said Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, a nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization.
In its annual report, “The Foreign Born Population in the United States,” the Census Bureau showed that 53 percent of immigrants living in this country in March 2003 were from Latin America.
Those from Central America—defined by the Census Bureau as a subset of Latin America that includes Mexico—accounted for more than a third of all the foreign-born in the United States.
The report, released yesterday, showed that Asians represented 25 percent of foreign-born residents. They were followed by Europeans (14 percent) and those from Africa and other regions of the world (8 percent.)
Foreign-born residents, according to the report, were more likely than natives to have incomes below the poverty level (17 percent versus 12 percent). In 2002, poverty rates were highest (24 percent) for those from Central America, and lowest for Europeans (less than 9 percent).
The poverty rate of foreign-born people who became naturalized citizens was closer to that of the native population (12 percent) than for noncitizen immigrants (21 percent), according to census data.
Mr. Camarota estimates that “almost 9 million” of all foreign-born people living in the United States last year were illegals. “The number of illegals is probably 10 million or more by now,” he said.
The Census Bureau’s findings are based on a monthly poll of 70,000 households, known as the “Current Population Survey.”
Although the Census Bureau officially released its 2003 report on the foreign-born population at a press conference yesterday, the Center for Immigration Studies, which examines the socioeconomic impact of immigration on the United States, “did a report on the same data” in November, Mr. Camarota said.
That report, titled “Immigration in the Time of Recession,” showed that immigration levels no longer track economic conditions in the United States.
“Even though the economy in the United States deteriorated severely” between 2000 and 2003, and “unemployment rates among immigrants rose from 4.9 percent to 7.4 percent during that period, the people still kept coming,” Mr. Camarota said.