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Foreign-born population sets record at 32.5-million

©Associated Press
March 10, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. foreign-born population has reached a record high, though the rate at which people came to America has slowed considerably, the government reports.

Experts suggest that downward trend may be due partly to the faltering economy and fallout from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Census Bureau estimates being released today show there were about 32.5-million foreign-born residents in the United States in March 2002, 2 percent more than the 31.8-million in the previous March.

In a population of 282.1-million, the foreign-born amounted to 11.5 percent.

The growth rate had been three times greater between March 2000 and 2001.

About 1.2 million people arrived in the country in the 12 months ending in March 2002, compared with 2.4 million the previous year, according to demographer William Frey, who analyzed the figures.

Besides new arrivals, the estimates also account for deaths and those who left the United States.

The government worked to close immigration loopholes and provide closer scrutiny of those admitted to the country after the Sept. 11 attacks. That, coupled with a slowing economy, may have caused some would-be immigrants to stay home, said Frey, who works at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

But Frey and other experts said other factors also played a role.

For instance, immigration officials in 2001 reduced a yearslong backlog in visaapplications, which could have led to an artificially high number of new immigrants, said Angela Kelley, deputy director of the National Immigration Forum, an immigrant advocacy group.

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