Study: U.S. Foreign-Born Population Hits All-Time High

Immigrants make up the highest share of the total national population in more than a century

The foreign-born population in the United States hit an all-time high last year of 43.7 million people, making it the highest percentage of residents born outside the country in more than a century, according to a new report.

The study, released Monday by the Center for Immigration Studies, is based on data published last month by the U.S. Census Bureau. Because census surveys do not capture all immigrants, the actual number likely is higher. A Department of Homeland Security study estimated a typical undercount of 10 percent: This would make the actual foreign-born population 45.6 million.

Counting 16.6 million U.S.-born children with at least one immigrant parent, immigrant families now account for nearly one in five U.S. residents — 60.4 million people.

Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies and co-author of the report, suggested that the nation is rapidly approaching a tipping point — without a serious examination of the implications.

“The enormous number of immigrants already in the country coupled with the settlement of well over a million newcomers each year has a profound impact on American society, including on workers, schools, infrastructure, hospitals and the environment,” he said in a statement. “The nation needs a serious debate about whether continuing this level of immigration makes sense.”

The 43.7 million total foreign-born population — legal and illegal immigrants — represents a net increase of about 400,000 since the previous year’s record.

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LifeZette previously reported that last year’s census release shows that a record-high 64.7 million residents speak a language other than English at home.

Details of Monday’s study reveal how quickly the immigrant population has grown in recent years. As recently as 1980, immigrants made up just one out of every 16 residents. The 13.5 percent share last year was the highest since 14.7 percent in 1910. The Center for Immigration Studies projects the foreign-born population will make up the highest share ever by 2023.

About 8.1 million immigrants moved to the United States between 2010 and 2106. That is offset by about 300,000 immigrants who return home each year and about 300,000 immigrant deaths, according to the think tank’s estimates. The result is a net increase of about 3.8 million during the first six years of the decade.

The report also highlights the changing face of American immigration. While Mexico continued to be the top country of origin — with 1.1 million immigrants arriving from there between 2010 and 2016 — the Mexican-born population in the United States has stabilized because of immigrants returning home, along with natural mortality.

Over that time period, the United States experienced a surge of immigration from East Asia (up 892,209), South Asia (up 889,878) the Caribbean (up 554,903), and the Middle East (up 471,029).

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On a percentage basis, majority-Muslim nations dominated the list of countries that experienced the biggest increases in emigrants to the United States between 2010 and 2016. They make up five of the 12 countries with the biggest increases in U.S.-bound emigrants.

The immigrant population grew in all but three states — Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico — from 2010 to 2016.

California’s 10.68 million immigrants was the most in the country — more than double any other state. That also was the highest share of any state, with 27.7 percent of all residents having been born abroad. Four other states had foreign-born populations equaling at least 20 percent of the total population — New York (23 percent), New Jersey (22.5 percent), Florida (20.6 percent), and Nevada (20 percent).

(photo credit: Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic by Jonathan McIntosh, Immigrants rights march for amnesty on May Day 2006 in downtown Los Angeles, California)

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