Immigration Skilled Workers
Immigration Skilled Workers

The typical immigrant to the United States now is a college-educated Asian.

That is a change from recent decades, when most new arrivals came from Latin America, according to government statistics.

While Europeans dominated immigration in the 1910s, as Latin Americans did after 1970, Asians are now the latest and largest wave of newcomers to the United States, the Brookings Institution reported. 

"The top three countries where immigrants migrated from [since 2000] were China, India, and the Philippines," wrote William H. Frey, a senior fellow in metropolitan policy at the nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington.

Brookings Institution experts reviewed statistics from the Census Bureau and found immigration from Latin America has waned since 2010. The widespread impression that Latin America is still the source of most immigrants may be because Latinos constitute more than 50 percent of all foreign-born Americans.

"Mexico, a long-term leader in U.S. immigrant gains and still the greatest country of origin of all U.S. foreign-born residents, had its number of immigrants diminished by 440,000 between 2010 and 2017," Frey wrote.

FILE - Immigrants hold miniature U.S. flags during
FILE - Immigrants hold miniature U.S. flags during a naturalization ceremony in New York. In a major shift in immigration patterns over the next 50 years, While Europeans dominated immigration in the 1910s, as Latin Americans did after 1970, Asians are now the latest and largest wave of newcomers to the United States, the Brookings Institution reported.

"This new release continues to point out that immigrants who arrived since 2010 portray a far different image than is commonplace in political discussions," he added. Frey referred to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been critical of U.S. immigration policies, specifically along the U.S.-Mexican border. Trump has lobbied for the U.S. to build a separation wall to thwart illegal crossings.

Issues of importance

In July 2016, Americans ranked immigration sixth in issues they considered important, after the economy, terrorism, foreign policy, health care and gun policy, according to the Pew Research Center. This July, 38 percent said legal immigration into the United States should be kept at its current level, while 32 percent said it should be increased, and 24 percent said it should be decreased.

Additionally, the new arrivals are well-schooled. Of those Asians arriving since 2010, 62 percent have come with college degrees, according to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). That contrasts with the figure from previous decades, when college-educated people made up 30 percent or less of new arrivals, Brookings reported. 

"This increase in the share of college graduates, accompanied by greater levels of English language proficiency and bilingualism, is correlated in part with a shift in flows to Asia," MPI wrote in June 2017. It is also reflective of increasing educational attainment across the world; a rise in secondary and postsecondary education offered in English; and the fact that English has become the global lingua franca, especially in business, international trade, science, education and entertainment.

College graduates, including those with bachelor's as well as more advanced degrees, made up 45 percent of 2010-17 foreign-born arrivals, Brookings reported. Only 32 percent of native-born Americans had degrees during the same time period.

FILE - Tri Phan, right, begins the lunch line for
FILE - Tri Phan, right, begins the lunch line for his retirement party at Lutheran Social Services in Fargo, N.D., Dec. 15, 2017. Phan, 66, spent nearly three decades working in the agency's refugee resettlement program, helping thousands of immigrants from dozens of countries become U.S. citizens.

Migration patterns changed after 2000. While most immigrants traditionally settled on the coasts and in metropolitan centers, newer immigrants spread into the interior.

Where populations grew

"North Dakota, where the immigrant population represents just 4.1 percent of all residents, increased the size of that population by 87 percent since 2010," Brookings reported. "West Virginia and South Dakota increased their foreign-born populations by a third; Kentucky and Tennessee showed growth by over one-fifth. Among the 15 low foreign-born concentration states shown on the map, eight exhibited foreign-born growth rates higher than the nation. And of the 21 moderate foreign-born concentration states, 16 showed higher than national rates of foreign-born growth."

Immigration from Italy, Germany and Poland tapered off after legislation in the 1920s introduced restrictions. In 1970, it was at its lowest with 9.6 million immigrants entering the United States, accounting for 4.7 percent of the general population. Latino immigration dominated the 1970s after the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 reopened borders.

The highest percentage of foreign-born Americans in a hundred years hit 13.7 percent in 2016, Brookings said.

"Although gains have been somewhat more modest in recent years, the 2017 foreign-born population stood at 44.5 million, more than double the size in 1990 and greater than four times the low point in 1970," Brookings wrote.

"It is also a consequence of shifting economic pulls in the United States, new attractions for students, and industry demands for both permanent and temporary workers."

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