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US Immigration Data Shows Numbers Up, Many from Asia

FILE - Participants hold the "Oath of Allegiance" and American flags during a naturalization ceremony at the National Archives in Washington, Dec. 15, 2015.

Legal and illegal immigration to the United States has risen over the past two years, reaching levels not seen since the beginning of the 21st century — and the greatest number of them are coming from Asia, not Latin America.

The findings appear in a year in which U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump is promising to build a wall on the Mexican border to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States.

New findings by the Center for Immigration Studies show more than three million legal immigrants came to the United States in 2014 and 2015, which is a 39 percent rise over the previous two years. The survey measures the flow of people in and out of the United States, including those on long-term visas.

FILE - A U.S. Border Patrol truck sits at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.
FILE - A U.S. Border Patrol truck sits at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas.

The CIS said in a statement Wednesday that factors influencing immigration may include the healthier economy, cutbacks in enforcement of immigration laws, and the nature of the U.S. legal immigration system, which provides options for long-term temporary visas for students and guest workers.

The center analyzed U.S. government data collected in its monthly Current Population Survey and found that the jump in immigration was due to a jump in immigrants from East Asia, South Asia, and Latin America — excluding Mexico.

Experts say that, regarding legal immigration, there has been a rise in the number of long-term work visas issued to Indians and Chinese. Meanwhile, the largest share of illegal immigrants was from Central America, which may mean they are part of the large numbers of unaccompanied children that began crossing U.S. southern borders illegally in recent months.

Experts unconnected with the CIS numbers say many illegal immigrants are in the country because they had legal visas but stayed after the visas expired. The rise in immigrant numbers suggests that more people may be overstaying their visas than in past years.