Immigration shift shows In­dia, China out­pac­ing Mexico


Sid­dharth Ja­ganath wanted to re­turn to In­dia af­ter earn­ing his master’s de­gree at Texas’ South­ern Methodist Univer­sity. In­stead, he built a new life in the U.S. over a decade, be­com­ing a man­ager at a com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy com­pany and start­ing a fam­ily in the Dal­las sub­urb of Plano.

“You start grow­ing your roots and even­tu­ally end up stay­ing here,” the 37-year-old said.

His path is an in­creas­ingly com­mon one: Im­mi­grants from China and In­dia, many with stu­dent or work visas, have over­taken Mex­i­cans as the largest groups com­ing into the U.S., ac­cord­ing to U.S. Cen­sus Bureau re­search re­leased in May. The shift has been build­ing for more than a decade and ex­perts say it’s bring­ing more highly skilled im­mi­grants here. And some Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates have pro­posed a heav­ier fo­cus on em­ploy­ment-based mi­gra­tion, which could ac­cel­er­ate tra­di­tion­ally slow changes to the coun­try’s ever-evolv­ing face of immigration.

Mex­i­cans still dom­i­nate the over­all com­po­si­tion of im­mi­grants in the U.S., ac­count­ing for more than a quar­ter of the for­eign-born peo­ple. But of the 1.2 mil­lion newly ar­rived im­mi­grants here legally and il­le­gally counted in 2013 num­bers, China led with 147,000, fol­lowed by In­dia with 129,000 and Mexico with 125,000. It’s a sharp con­trast to the 2000 Cen­sus, when there were 402,000 from Mexico and no more than 84,000 each from In­dia and China. Ex­perts say part of the rea­son for the de­crease in Mex­i­can im­mi­grants is a dra­matic plunge in illegal immigration.

“We’re not likely to see Asians over­take Latin Amer­i­cans any­time soon (in over­all im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion). But we are sort of at the lead­ing edge of this tran­si­tion where Asians will rep­re­sent a larger and larger share of the U.S. for­eign-born pop­u­la­tion,” said Marc Rosen­blum, deputy di­rec­tor of the U.S. Immigration Pol­icy Pro­gram for the Washington-based Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute.

The na­tional trend is ev­i­dent even in Texas, where the num­ber of Mex­i­can im­mi­grants com­ing to the bor­der state each year has dropped by more than half since 2005, ac­cord­ing to the Of­fice of the State De­mog­ra­pher. In that time, the num­ber of peo­ple from In­dia com­ing to Texas has more than dou­bled and the num­ber from China has in­creased more than five­fold, though both still com­fort­ably trail Mex­i­can im­mi­grants.

Asian im­mi­grants have flocked to Texas’ large ur­ban and sub­ur­ban ar­eas, in­clud­ing the Dal­las sub­urb of Collin County, the home to many ma­jor busi­nesses. Laxmi Tum­mala, a real es­tate agent in the area and a U.S.-born child of In­dian im­mi­grants, has wit­nessed a buildup in In­dian restau­rants, gro­cery stores, cloth­ing out­lets and wor­ship cen­ters.

“All of that is ex­tremely ac­ces­si­ble now,” Tum­mala said.

While much of the dis­cus­sion among Repub­li­can can­di­dates this sum­mer has cen­tered on illegal immigration, they have also touched on im­mi­grant skill lev­els. Don­ald Trump has pro­posed kick­ing out the es­ti­mated 11 mil­lion peo­ple who are in the U.S. il­le­gally be­fore al­low­ing the “good ones” and “tal­ented” ones back in. Jeb Bush and Marco Ru­bio both have said that the le­gal immigration process should fo­cus more on let­ting in work­ers the coun­try needs rather than re­unit­ing fam­i­lies.

In­creas­ing the flow of highly skilled im­mi­grants would likely have a big im­pact on those com­ing from In­dia and China. The ma­jor­ity of them who are 25 and older who ar­rived within three years of the 2013 num­bers had a bach­e­lor’s de­gree or higher, ac­cord­ing to the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute. Mex­i­can im­mi­grants only had 15 per­cent, up from 6 per­cent in 2000.

China and In­dia’s grow­ing economies have given im­mi­grants ac­cess to travel and the abil­ity to pay for an ed­u­ca­tion abroad. Hua Bai came to the Univer­sity of Texas at Dal­las from China last year to work on a master’s de­gree in mar­ket­ing and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy man­age­ment. The 25-year-old said that given the right op­por­tu­nity, she’d like to stay in the U.S.

“If I get spon­sor­ship I’d con­sider liv­ing here and work­ing here,” she said. “It all de­pends on the job op­por­tu­ni­ties.”

With­out re­vi­sions in immigration pol­icy, ex­perts say the change to the over­all im­mi­grant pop­u­la­tion will be slow. One rea­son is that the num­ber of Mex­i­cans who be­come le­gal per­ma­nent res­i­dents is about twice the num­ber of In­dian and Chi­nese peo­ple who do, ac­cord­ing to Michael Fix, pres­i­dent of the Mi­gra­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute.

But a ris­ing num­ber of Chi­nese and In­di­ans will be­come per­ma­nent res­i­dents, given the cur­rent rate of about half of peo­ple here on tem­po­rary work visas ob­tain­ing that sta­tus, Fix said.

Ja­ganath was among that group, inspired to come to the U.S. be­cause the coun­try is a leader in his ca­reer field.

“That was a fol­low­ing-the-dream type of thing for me,” he said.

(Above) In this photo taken Aug. 22, Weikang Nie, a fi­nance grad­u­ate stu­dent from China, walks into an ori­en­ta­tion for Chi­nese stu­dents at the Univer­sity of Texas at Dal­las in Richard­son, Texas.


(Left) In this photo taken Aug. 21, Sita Ja­ganath, 7, left, shows her fa­ther Sid­dharth Ja­ganath a math prob­lem she worked out at their home in Plano, Texas.

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