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February 2002, Volume 9, Number 2

Census, INS: Data

The Census Bureau estimated there were 8.7 million illegal foreigners in the US in 2000, more than twice as many as the 3.8 million in 1990. More than half the illegal migrants come from North and Central America, including 3.9 million or 44 percent from Mexico. About 40 percent are18 years to 29 years old, 54 percent are male, and 62 percent are Hispanic. About 1.3 million illegal immigrants are from Asia, 1.1 million from Europe and 624,419 from South America.

The US Supreme Court agreed to resolve a dispute over the way the Census assigns seats in the 435-member House of Representatives. The current breakdown of the House as a whole is 222 Republicans, 211 Democrats and two independents.

Since 1960, the Census has used a "hot-deck imputation" method to assign the number and characteristics of residents to housing units who do not respond after repeated attempts. Utah argues that imputation violates the constitutional requirement for "an actual enumeration" of each U.S. resident every 10 years as well as a federal law banning statistical "sampling" by the Census for purposes of apportioning House seats. In the 2000 Census, imputation accounted for 0.4 percent of the population total of 281.4 million. If the court finds that imputation is unconstitutional, one seat may shift from North Carolina to Utah.

INS. The INS released immigration data for 1999 and 2000 in January 2002. Immigration, granting visas to foreigners that give them the right to live and work in the US and, after five years, to apply for US citizenship, was 850,000 in FY2000, and averaged 767,000 between 1996 and 2000. About 40 percent of legal immigrants were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, 30 percent were other family-sponsored immigrants, 12 percent were employment-based immigrants (including their family members), nine percent were refugees and aslyees, and 10 percent were diversity and other immigrants.

Legal immigrants can receive visas from US consulates abroad, as 407,400 did in FY2000, or be in the US when their immigrant visa becomes available and adjust their status at an INS office, as 442,400 did. Thus, 52 percent of immigrants were already in the US when they received their immigration visas, and subsequently adjusted their status. The INS improved the efficiency of processing adjustment of status applications. Legal immigration is expected to top one million in FY2001, which ended September 30, 2001.

The time between application and green card was 12 to 15 months in January 2002, down from 33 months in 1999, and the backlog of applicants was 980,000, down from one million in January 2001. Some 6,600 INS adjudicators handle immigration and other applications for benefits.

The major countries of origin of FY2000 immigrants were Mexico (173,919 or 20 percent), the People's Republic of China (45,652 or five percent ), Philippines (42,474), India (42,046), and Vietnam (26,747). Over two-thirds of immigrants indicated they would settle in six states: California (217,753), New York (106,061), Florida (98,391), Texas (63,840), Illinois (40,013) and New Jersey (36,180).

The number of applications for US citizenship rose in October-November 2001, to some 73,000 a month. To naturalize, immigrants generally have to have lived in the United States for five years as legal permanent residents, pass an English and civics test and show good moral character.

Nonimmigrants. The number of nonimmigrant admissions rose 36 percent between 1996 and 2000, to 34 million. The number of temporary worker and trainee admissions rose by 150 percent, to 635,000 admissions in 2000, while the number of foreign student admissions rose by 52 percent, to 700,000. These data, however, double count an individual admitted more than once in one year.

Publication of these immigration data was reportedly held up by an INS mistake in 1999. Under US law, an unlimited number of foreigners can receive asylum in the US, but only 10,000 a year can have their status adjusted to immigrant. Because of record-keeping errors in 1999, only 5,000 foreigners who had been granted asylum were allowed to become immigrants.

Mary Beth Sheridan, "Citizenship Applications Up Sharply," Washington Post, January 20, 2002.