Foreign-born population in U.S. higher than ever
Immigrants wave flags after being sworn in as U.S. citizens in naturalization ceremonies in Pomona, California.
May 10th, 2012
10:25 PM ET

Foreign-born population in U.S. higher than ever

By Stephanie Siek, CNN

(CNN) – The United States is becoming increasingly international, according to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau  in the 2010 American Community Survey Thursday.

The number of foreign-born people in the United States is at an all-time high, at 40 million - an increase of about 9 million since the 2000 census. The 2010 census put the total U.S. population at almost 309 million.

But the foreign born comprise a smaller proportion of the total population (13%) than they did during the peak immigration years of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The 2010 American Community Survey also reveals that more than half of the nation’s foreign-born population lives in just four states: California, New York, Texas and Florida. Latin American immigrants remain the most numerous foreign-born group. Some 53% of all foreign-born population claimed their region of birth in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Just more than half of that group were born in Mexico, making it the most common country of origin - 29% of foreign-born residents, or 11.7 million people, were born there.

The next most common region of birth was Asia (28%), followed by Europe (12%), Africa (4%), North America (2%) and Oceania (less than 1%).

China was the second-most common country of birth for immigrants, with 2.2 million having originated from there. India and the Philippines tied for third, with 1.8 million each.Vietnam and El Salvador tied for fourth, with 1.2 million people from each country. Cuba and South Korea ranked fifth as countries of origin, with 1.1. million of the U.S. foreign-born population hailing from either.

Forty-four percent of foreign-born people are naturalized citizens, with European-born (62%) and Asian-born (58%) individuals having the highest rates of naturalization. People born in Latin America had the lowest rates of naturalization at 32%.

Citizenship rates increased the longer an immigrant remained in the U.S.  For immigrants who arrived before 1980, 80% are naturalized citizens. Among Asians who came to the country in the same timeframe, 90% are citizens.

By comparison, only about 13.7% of the total immigrants arriving since 2000 have become citizens, in part because immigrants generally must live in the U.S. continuously for five years as a permanent resident before qualifying for citizenship.

Posted by
Filed under: Census • Community • Ethnicity • Immigration • Latino in America • Who we are
soundoff (392 Responses)
  1. Saundra

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    February 11, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mark longhurst

    just like Aus, America is a country of migrants, the us and them mentality is a consequence of colonial nationalism.This has only worked in countries with a small aboriginal (original) poulation .

    May 16, 2012 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
  3. Miquel

    20 million Illegals familiar with our Emergency Clinics and receiving free care
    have no complaints about Obama Health Care because the laws stipulation that Americans are required to have health insurance has NO IMPACT on their useage of Hospitals.
    The reason is THEY are not Americans they are ILLEGALS of other nationalities
    so they are not bound by this law and plan to keep having free care for themselves and their children born here as -american kids–Oh yes and those kids are then entitled for a
    full round of entitlements. 2 illegals can make a legal. A legal expensive entitlement
    we are all paying for exponentially.
    20 million ILLEGALS and those same 20 million ILLEGALS using OUR healthcare
    as easy as a Kleenex tissue is a big big expense and a problem.
    This is not a problem for them it's use is free to them.... the problem is the "I hard worker"
    for corporations that like hiring illegals for their cheap employment costs are
    weighing heavy on this country while your big corps cant wait to hire them with an amnesty process
    hopefully forthcoming.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. ray0369

    I don't think Americans are against immigration, I think there against the governments disregard for the immigration laws that are for fathers wanted. This open border policy is something that big business wants. Not the American people.

    May 14, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. lance

    thanks obama for bringing all these immigrants to this country during high unemployment and bad economic recession, way to make everybody fight over the few jobs that are left. 4 more years 4 more years with the liberals !

    May 14, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rose

      Obama has deported more illegals than any other president. Majority of illegals came during Bush years.

      September 10, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. truprogress

    "immigrants generally must live in the U.S. continuously for five years as a permanent resident before qualifying for citizenship." This should be explained further. The process leading to becoming a permanent resident can easily take 10 years, and it is only open to family members of US citizens, diversity lottery winners, and professionals with an offer of a permanent job (after the job has been advertised for US citizens). The process is NOT open to blue collar immigrant workers.

    May 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • aspblom

      Southern Calf has millions of illegal immigrants with no education beyond several years of grade school. Their children cost LA County 1 Billion dollars annually in medical expenses..Their presence has been the source of great social conflict as well as a tremendous financial drain.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
      • ray0369

        I understand Southern California's problem, Texas is going thru the same thing. Yes, some of the problem is that the Latino illegals have little education true. But I feel the big problem is that employers want these illegals and have jobs especially for illegals. There paid under the table and no taxes are paid to the government. It's a win, win for the employer and in some cases the employer hires a sub-contractor to do the work and the real employer doesn't have them on the payroll so he didn't do anything wrong. The illegals are paid less than minimum wage and the employer gets his work done for less, and that more profit for the company. And because business controls Washington and all politicians care about is re-election things won't change unless serious term limits for everyone are adopted.

        May 14, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
      • SoundFuture


        I agree with but with a caviat. The employers here aren't allowed to check if someone actually matches thier social security number when they apply for a job. So, that being said, there are a lot of people out there in a lot of trouble with the IRS because of this.

        I love my Latino neighbors, and I understand some are doing everything they can for a better life (if the U.S. were Mexico and Mexico were the U.S. I'd be trying to outrun everyone to the border).

        We need to allow employers to do thier homework, we need to penalize those heavily which do not, and we need to develop a realistic work visa program. I don't mind them working here at all, but I do mind the illegality of it that is consistently tolerated and ignored by our "representatives" in D.C..

        May 15, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
      • ray0369


        May 15, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Redgmac

    You are not a part of the problem, you are the problem, Americans who think we are one step closer to godliness than our fellow earth inhabitants are brain washed. Go back to your imitation news source, you don't belong amongst the rest of the melting pot. Your narrow minded views are marginalizing and eroding your base. It's a dam shame it takes a lefty to point out your obvious short comings.
    This lefty is up and working before the sun comes up everyday. The leftys who sleep in do so because they were up late undoing the harm the fanatical right did the day before.

    May 14, 2012 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. Hal

    Why is the Obama Administration bringing in immigrants when Americans are on unemployment benefits and Veterans need jobs and California is going into Bankruptcy and can't pay their bills.

    May 14, 2012 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
    • AusieSceptic1

      because they are willing to work and make a positive contribution to your society

      May 14, 2012 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
      • aspblom

        I know that engineers have been fired in large numbers and their jobs given to Indians brought in on special visas, and these Indians are paid less while the Americans are jobless.

        May 14, 2012 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
      • Jody

        They are willing to let Americans support them while they are a detriment Lime what youpay your doctor? Imwoek in healthcare and all these immigrants get medicaid.

        May 14, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • JM

      From first hand experience, grad school (PhD) is primarily dominated by foriegn students. For some reason Americans are just not pursuing PhDs or higher education. This leaves openings for foriegn students to pursue PhDs here in America mostly in engineering and the sciences. Because of this, employers have no choice but to hire PhD graduates for PhD level positions. Many try to work in American than go back to thier home country mainly because America on average and across the board is the highest paying country. It is good they stay and keep the talent in America. It helps drive our technology advancement.

      May 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
      • Rose

        Go to any US graduate school and you will see that majority of science and engineering students are foreigners. When I went to engineering school there were two US citizens, me and one more gut and I am a foreign born nauralized citizen.

        September 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • ray0369

      I've done a little research on this. In Texas recently a lawsuit was brought against the University of Texas because a Anglo girl graduated from high school and applied to the University, but was turned down. She was a long time resident of Texas but because she didn't graduate in the top 10% she was denied. The school did reply and said that the school is obligated to accept any Texas resident that graduates in the top 10% and this student did not. So we don't have to accept her.
      The fact is that out of state students and foreign students pay more to attend so the state schools will take those people first.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. skbmom

    Wow! As a hard working, tax paying, voting, foreign born naturalized citizen, of this wonderful country, I am amazed at some of the comments here. The assumption that immigrants are mostly illegal and a burden rather than an asset to this country equates to walking around with blinders on. The next time you all go see your doctor, or need use of an engineering firm just ask and see where they were born. Some us gladly go to work every day to give back to this country. We are soldiers, doctors, nurses, engineers, business owners, and yes we clean your houses, pick your fields, work the assembly line and more. Do not insult me please.

    May 14, 2012 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
    • aspblom

      Perhaps the reference is to those illegally here. And the jobs that they do USED to go to Americans, but employers reduced the wages (attack on working people) and gave the jobs (criminally) to illegal aliens) who do cost LA County tons of money.

      May 14, 2012 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
    • roblearns

      Naturalized citizens are americans, so the jobs they are working are held by americans.

      That's why I personally think the discussion needs to be about racism – it's not nationalism – we are discussing citizens of this country. The objection to citizens of this country holding jobs – by virtue of their place of birth – is really code for racism – they more or less are assuming race by location of birth. Born in mexico – likely hispanic. Born in Africa – likely black.

      I've never met one of these racists enraged by immigration from Canada, the UK, Australia – lets face it, they find that pleasant, and somehow manage to tolerate the jobs those people hold.

      May 14, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
      • aspblom

        A discussion US about illegal immigration...... Another discussion IS about the destructive effects on the environment of any population growth.

        May 14, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • ray0369

      I gave a similar answer to another post tonight. I don't think Americans are against immigration, but Americans are about tired of our government closing their eyes to illegal immigration. It's illegal immigration that's putting a burden on the tax payers and as a professional and I think you are, you to should be outraged with the governments total disregard for the immigration laws and border protection.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  10. HillClimber

    It is time to stop all immigration. It is only a tradition, after all, and we can stop issuing visas and stop other practices such as chain immigration. I am tired of importing the problems of the world. My schools are overburdened and the quality of education greatly diminished. Who is watching the store? I did not expect George Walker Bush to take steps – all of his steps were incredibly in error anyway. But now we have Obama who somehow has come to the conclusion that he has a right to give away my country by failing to prevent access by aliens and illegal aliens. Stop the idiotic amnesty Now!

    May 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • ken

      I believe that America can solve its trillion dollar deficit by giving amnesty just like Reagan did it back in the 80.s, Then all the illegals will become legal and start paying taxes. We are a country of acceptance and tolerance. Amnesty is good and this will make America stronger and a shining example of multiculturalism. America is God's country and immigration is good for this country. Obama is the greatest president that we have!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • aspblom

        Immigration and its attendant cultural diversity have ALREADY caused great disruption. How is that good? High immigration has increased our carbon footprint greatly (shall we damage the earth even more?)

        May 13, 2012 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
      • Tom

        No, they will all apply for welfare and obama will happily give it to them, screwing the taxpayers, yet again.

        May 14, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • aspblom

      History and social science in general tell us clearly that diversity produces a decrease in trust and co-operation. We did see that a century ago in the US. We are seeing it again in the US. Support for the social safety net, once strong in Minnesota, has decreased there due to increased diversity there and the same has happened in Scandinavia. My own Native American ancestors paid a large price for the increased diversity and massive immigration that they encountered.

      May 13, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. beairdboy

    Have we forgotten this is the American way. First it was Europe. Now everyone else. So what's the problem? Have we forgotten are for fathers and there ideals?

    May 13, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  12. neal

    There will be three classes of people in this country. The immigrants who will work any job. The rich who don't need to work. And those in the middle who are the wall street occupiers.

    May 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ManhattanNick

    The problem with Immigration today is twofold. One, much, if not most of it, is illegal. When you allow certain laws to be violated with impunity, it erodes respect for all laws and that is very bad for society. Secondly, from what I have seen, most Immigrants today have no desire to become part of the great melting pot. They don't want to adopt our culture, they want to change it.The vast waves of immigration in the past consisted of people who wanted to become Americans and they did. Today, they don't even like American culture and they don't share our values. They would have America change for them, rather than the other way around. They want the economic opportunity, but they hate everything else about us.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Errogant 2

      Illegal immigration is at an all-time low.

      May 13, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
      • ManhattanNick

        You have a source for that statement? There continues to be a huge illegal immigrant problem.

        May 13, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
      • Tom

        Not true.

        May 14, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
      • ray0369

        your somewhat right. Jobs for illegals are drying up and there are many returning to Mexico and Central America. So if you subtract those returning from the number arriving then maybe today the number aren't growing as fast. That doesn't change the number of illegals that already have jobs.

        May 14, 2012 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
    • The Watchman

      I'm in total agreement with you ManhattanNick.
      I'm all for folks who come here legally who are seeking a better life for themselves and their families and would try my best to help an immigrant who came legally with the intent of earning a legal living and who's desire it is to become a true American.
      But enough with all those who come illegally. Enough with those who come with the intent to transform our country into something besides true Americanism.
      I truly wish our government would enforce existing immigration laws. Theres no doubt I would be proud in being a helpful neighbor to any immigrant who comes here legally, wants to be American and wants to be part of our country.
      Wouldn't it be nice if our government rallied behind this idea? This is not new idealism, this is what made us great!

      May 13, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
      • rob

        obama has deported more legal and ilegal immigrants more than any president in history and thats a fact.

        May 15, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • James

      Although we cannot completely ascertain the illegal population currently living in the US, it is estimated that there are around 7-20 million illegal residents, even though the most commonly used figure is 11 million. Given that the Latino population in total hovers around 50 million in the US, it is false to say that "most immigrants are illegal".

      May 14, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • James

      Lets face it – A lot of the "Anti-Illegals" people are trying to make illegal immigration look worse than it actually is, boosting numbers to justify their racism. Yes, a lot of people who "hate illegals" also "hate Latinos" just because they are not white. I am Korea/American, so I come from a multi-cultural background, but I am an American just like everyone else here. I know the difference between people wanting justice, and people who speak out of their racist opinions. Evidently, MOST immigrants according to our census and other research numbers show that they are legal. Even if we took the highest number, 20 million, you still have 30 million legal citizens.

      May 14, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
      • ray0369

        your absolutely right, and the news media will compound the problem to their advantage. We have laws that forbid employers from hiring illegals. If the jobs disappear the illegals will disappear. But little do people know that many large companies hire illegals thru sub-contractors to do maintenance and construction. An until big business is stopped from corrupting Washington then problems like this one will never be resolved.

        May 14, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  14. Tony

    So I'm not a foil for the super rich and I'm a tree hugging hippy who sleeps in every day. I work in corporate America and have an MBA and am proud to be a PATRIOT and a LIBERAL. You do understand that the very word is derived from liberty?....Of course you don't. So because I do not subscribe to conservatism does that make you a fascist reactionary that despises my country? No it doesn't..actually it is absurd- just as your take on liberals Don.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. aspblom


    May 13, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  16. missed the point

    The problem becomes, as we are finally shedding silly primitive god beliefs here, we now have to deal with it again. Many of these people are brainwashed with the same silly god beliefs, as the religious right.

    May 13, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  17. Sandy Kho

    Wow, clearly the "Greatest Nation in the World" has a lot of internal underlying racism issues. It is a shame that it can't be held up as example of successful multi-cultural country.

    Perhaps this will what will ultimately bring the downfall of the "American Empire". Internal civil war based on racial groups.

    May 13, 2012 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
    • ray0369

      I don't think the world population is ready for total integration. We as a people have too many differences. People come to America for the jobs and the money but they don't want to live the way we do. And they're not ready to live as we live. Crime in this country is do to the vast number of people that don't know how to deal with the fast pace life we have in this country. Even our children are failing in greater numbers because they're not prepared for the American lifestyle. I feel crime will just keep escalating until our government takes control of immigration and we change our public school system.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
      • John

        Our population growth is killing the planet.

        May 13, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Solo

      Oh, please. It seems that every comment that someone of color does not like is now called "racist" in this country. Minorities don't care about all of the discussion when they want something. If you don't care for this country – leave – and be advised that your welfare benefits don't transfer overseas.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • disgustedNY

      America is not a multi-cultural country and never has been.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:23 am | Report abuse |
    • disgustedNY

      Sandy in the past when foreigners have to come to live in America they immediately assimilated...meaning they decided to speak English and fit in. Today's foreigners want no such thing. If there is ever any racial war it will be the immigrants fault and that's why it needs to be stopped.

      May 14, 2012 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
      • Sandy Kho

        Are you suggesting stop migration completely? Or Ihave a discriminary selection based on Race?

        May 14, 2012 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
  18. FatManFlying

    ElroyJones. Isn't Jones a British name? Good thing for you there weren't people like you in charge when the original Jones came over.

    May 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • xirume

      Not you FatMan, bu this Jones dude.

      May 12, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Ryan

    Except for Native Americans, we are all technically immigrants, so simmer down people. Diversity is a good thing. We are not Nazi Germany.

    May 12, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • aspblopm

      Of course, only those who immigrate are immigrants. So this is not a country of immigrants. Of course, except for portions of east Africa, all countries of the world were originally settled by immigrating people............. And social science is very clear that as diversity goes up, trust and co-operation go down. So, diversity has destructive effects at certain levels.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Nah

      You do realize the Indians were not native to the U.S., right?

      May 13, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
      • aspblom

        Exactly. My own Native American ancestors arrived here from Asia.

        May 13, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jody

      Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Freebieland isn't good for the hardworking, taxpaying Americans.

      May 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Solo

      And... the Native American population has an 85% unemployment rate among their reservation structure. They've been more than compensated for anything they have a past history issue with.

      May 13, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  20. maggotfist

    I don't even know where to start on this mess.

    May 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  21. Andree Joy

    Lee, as a legal immigrant from 1946 I c ompletely agree with you.

    May 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Lou

    I have worked in Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica and Chile because I work for a company that does business in many countries. My family most of the time travels and stay with me. My children have learned Spanish because we chose to enroll them in a bilingual school. My wife and I met at the university while we were getting a minor in Spanish, our family is not Hispanic, they came in the 19th century . When we go to other countries to work, most of the Americans that live there have not learned Spanish, they also send their children to English speaking schools and most of their friends are from the U.S. . Reading these messages lots of people expect others to learn English as soon as they arrive here, and they want them to communicate in their native language, but if they would go to another country they would not learn the other country's language, and the only language they would use would be English. Most of the people if they stay long enough in the United States will learn English, but they rather speak their language when they are at home or with others that understand them.

    May 12, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • M

      I've traveled to over 20 countries, the only language the is universal is English. All the computer code is in English. Unless you want to do lawn care, foreman at a construction site, work in food service, be in law enforcement or maybe the medical field learning Spanish is a waste of time. The majority of Americans will work in America and if all you learn is Spanish you are limiting your career options. I'd choose learning Java over Spanish, even Russian. I've learned a few other languages and Spanish is worthless. Learning a skill would serve you much better.

      May 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Fed Up

    It's not about "Liberal" or "Conservative" labels... it's about being in a country legally. I have no problem with someone applying for citizenship if they are willing to work and be productive. It's when I have to watch my ever-increasing taxes and own personal expenses because of those here illegally, and not only that, they expect the same rights as someone who is already a citizen. It's more welfare, I am am Fed Up.

    May 12, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Don

    I'm just kidding.

    May 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  25. kit

    Enough is enough. Close the door and lock it.

    May 12, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      Closing the door and locking it is un-American.

      May 13, 2012 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  26. paulo

    The american indians are the natives the rest came from europe ,and other continents, and most of them very poor and illiterate , now you are speaking about what...

    May 12, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • aspblopm

      Native Americans came as immigrants. At some point they stopped being immigrants. The children of European imigrants were no longer immigrants. As diversity goes up, trust and co-operation go down (social science is very clear on this) That mistrust can break into war as we see in US history and in the ongoing Indian vs European conflict in Latin America.

      May 13, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
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