Asians are now the most numerous immigrants in the United States as the number of Hispanics has gone down due to less demand for unskilled labour and a crackdown on illegal immigrants, research shows.
The number of Asian immigrants grew from 19% of all new immigrants in 2000 to 36% in 2010. Incoming Hispanic immigrants fell from 59% in 2000 to 31, the report from the Pew Research Center shows.
Up to 11% of illegal immigrants in the United States are Asian while about 75% are Hispanic, according to the analysis, which combined government data with its own polling.
The findings come amid fierce debate over US immigration policy. President Barack Obama has announced that he is halting deportations for young illegals and the US Supreme Court is also expected to rule this month on Arizona’s controversial law requiring police to check the immigration status of detainees.
Much of the debate has centred on Hispanics, a highly visible group and the nation’s largest ethnic minority population. But now policy makers are going to have to take into account Asians.
Experts said there was no single answer for why Asian immigrants surpassed Hispanics, but the sluggish US economy has probably played a big role. US immigration policy tends to favour skilled labour and students, something that works to the advantage of immigrants from Asian countries that have a focus on education.
The modern immigration wave from Asia is nearly a half century old and pushed the total population of Asian Americans to a record 18.2 million in 2011, or 5.8% of the total US population, the report says. That gain is up from less than 1% in 1965 and includes those who have immigrated or were born in the United States.
There are 52 million Hispanics in the United States, more than 38 million blacks and nearly 198 million whites, according to the report. Other government data has also shown the United States on track to have ethnic minorities as its majority population rather than whites.
The report also shows all Asians in the United States, not just recent immigrants, are a well educated group that tends to have more college degrees, a higher annual household income, and greater wealth than the overall US population.
While immigration experts said newcomers to the United States tend to hail from less economically developed countries, there is a demand for the highly skilled labour that many Asians can offer.
Some 80% of all Asian Americans are Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Filipino or Vietnamese, the report also reveals.
The research group’s findings are based on US Census data and economic data as well as the centre’s poll of more than 3,500 Asian Americans between January and March. The Pew poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.4%.