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Asian Immigrants to Overtake Hispanics

Asians are likely to be the largest group of immigrants in the United States by 2065.

That is what a new study by the Pew Research Center found last week. They say that by 2065, Asians will overtake Hispanics as the biggest immigrant group.

If trends continue, immigrants and their children will add 103 million people to the U.S. population by 2065. Pew says the U.S. population could grow to 441 million in 50 years. That means, 88 percent of the growth in U.S. population will be from immigration.

Mark Choe was born in Seoul, South Korea. He came to the U.S. 30 years ago when he was 22, in search of a better life. Why did he move to America?

“Independence from my family. And more, ah, looking for opportunities.”

He found that opportunity in the small business world.

Now he owns a popular restaurant in Takoma Park, Maryland, where we met with him. He said it is easier for second-generation Americans, because they grow up in the country and the culture.

People from all over the world want to come here. Why?

“They really want to move to United States for everything. Education, and to live, and like dreaming, you know?”

Like many Asian immigrants, he came to the U.S. in search of a better life, and he found it, he says.

Changes in US immigration law

It was 50 years ago that the U.S. government passed a law that changed American immigration policy when Mark was 2 years old. Officials stopped using a quota system -- how many people could come from each country. Instead, the focus was on family reunification and skilled immigrants.

Back in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was mostly Europeans who made up the waves of immigration to U.S. shores. Once the quota system that favored European countries was changed, the national origin of people coming to the U.S. changed, too.

Since 1965, when the immigration law was changed, half of the immigrants have come from Latin America. One quarter are from Asian countries.

2015 Global Citizen Festival

2015 Global Citizen Festival

As the immigrant groups change, so does the face of America. From 1965 to this year, the Hispanic share of the population went from four percent to 18 percent. Asians rose from one percent to six percent.

The Pew study predicts that the nation’s immigrant population will keep changing. It says that the percent of foreign-born Hispanics will fall from 47 percent now, to only 31 percent by 2065.

The study also says the number of Asian immigrants is moving up, instead of down. Pew says Asians will be the largest immigrant group by 2055. They will make up more than a third of the foreign-born population by 2065. Non-Hispanic whites will be less than half of the U.S. population forty years from now.

And that means no racial or ethnic group will have a majority in the U.S.

Hispanic immigration dropping

What is causing the drop in Hispanic immigration? We asked James Witte, who is a professor, and the Director of the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

“Part of it is the tightening of the border with Mexico, which then also tightens up the borders, the border for people coming from Central America, so that’s had one impact.”

Mr. Witte also says the economy has gotten better in Mexico and Central America, and fewer people are emigrating in search of jobs in the U.S.

He says, Asian immigrants come from countries like China, Korea, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. Mr. Witte says many of them tend to be more skilled,

“… and better educated immigrants, and that’s where a lot of the Asian immigrants have been working their way into the U.S.”

Immigration reform?

Immigration reform is a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail this year. Mr. Witte says there is a lot of talk about changing what the immigration preferences will be. He says there will probably be a need for both high skill and low skill workers.

New citizens wave American flags during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremony on the campus of Florida International University, July 6, 2015, in Miami, Florida.

New citizens wave American flags during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalization ceremony on the campus of Florida International University, July 6, 2015, in Miami, Florida.

For high skill, it will be for people with math and science skills that Americans don’t have. Employers are looking to fill high skilled jobs quickly. Americans’ abilities in math and science are less than some in other countries. Mr. Witte says reform should come in both fields:

“So I think that the questions of immigration and our education system need to be handled at the same time.”

As for low skill, less-educated immigrants will take jobs that require little knowledge or experience. Those are typically also low paying.

President Barack Obama announced a “pivot towards Asia” foreign policy. It will happen, too, with immigration. As the Internet also pulls people together, Mr. Witte says, the growing immigrant population in America will create closer ties to those in their home countries.

“These connections and ties that are built can be a real source of stability, and I think that’s the positive way to look at it. Is here is the opportunity through new Americans to build stronger relationships with the rest of the world.”

And that, he says, is a good thing,.

I’m Anne Ball.

Anne Ball and Pete Musto wrote this story. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

Tell us what you think, write us in the comment section below.


Words in This Story

trend (s) –n; to extend in a general direction (or intransitive verb?)

quota –n; an official limit on the number or amount of people allowed

emigrating -v; leaving one country for another

hot topic – phrase; something many people are talking about

preference (s) –n; an advantage given to some people or things over others

stability –n; something that is not easily changed

opportunity –n. an amount of time or a situation in which something can be done

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