U.S. residents who were born in another country made up 8.7% of the population last year, the highest proportion of immigrants since World War II, a new Census Bureau study shows.
That means 22.6 million people, nearly one in 11 people in the United States, are foreign-born, and one-third of them live in California, according to the study released Monday. One-fifth of the immigrants, or 4.5 million people, arrived here in the last five years.
The 8.7 immigrant percentage of the population is up from 7.9% in 1990 and nearly double the 1970 level of 4.8%.
The census findings, which cover legal and illegal immigrants, come amid fierce debate over immigration policies, both in Congress and among Republican presidential hopefuls. Congress is considering a number of bills to cap legal immigration and try to slow illegal immigration.
More than 4 million people are believed to be in the United States illegally. About 1 million people were admitted legally in 1994.
The Clinton Administration is planning to admit 20,000 fewer refugees next year--an 18% reduction--despite a steady increase in the number of people forced to flee their homes because of war, famine or other causes.
The Census Bureau study showed that immigrants who arrived after 1989 are more likely to receive public aid than people born here--5.7% versus 2.9%. But those who arrived before 1970 are less likely to receive it, only 1.4%.
The study also showed that of the 22.6 million foreign-born people living in the United States in March, 1994, 6.2 million came from Mexico. The Philippines was the homeland of the next largest group.