For the first time, the influx of Asians moving to the United States has surpassed that of Hispanics, reflecting a slowdown in illegal immigration while American employers increase their demand for high-skilled workers.
A study by the Pew Research Center details what it describes as "the rise of Asian-Americans," a highly diverse and fast-growing group making up roughly 5 percent of the U.S. population, or 15.1 million people. Mostly foreign-born and naturalized citizens, their numbers have been boosted by increases in visas granted to specialized workers and to wealthy investors as the U.S. economy becomes driven less by manufacturing and more by technology.
About 430,000 Asians, or 36 percent of all new immigrants, arrived in the United States in 2010, according to the latest census data. That's compared with about 370,000, or 31 percent, who were Hispanic.
The Pew analysis, released Tuesday, said the tipping point for Asian immigrants likely occurred during 2009 as illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico sharply declined due to increased immigration enforcement and a dwindling supply of low-wage work in the weak U.S. economy.
The shift to increased Asian immigration, particularly of people from India, China and South Korea, coincides with changes in U.S. immigration policy dating to the 1990s that began to favor wealthy and educated workers. The policy, subject to caps that have created waiting lists, fast-tracks visas for foreigners willing to invest at least half a million dollars in U.S. businesses or for workers in high-tech and other specialized fields who have at least a bachelor's degree.