Census shows area’s Hispanic population dropping
Despite being a nation of immigrants, the United States has had a long, troubled history with immigration, even though immigrants fought our wars, built our railroads and enriched our culture.
All too often, the conflict over immigration has had to do with ethnicity.
Anti-Irish riots roiled Philadelphia in 1844 and signs reading “Irish need not apply” filled cities across the country.
Nevertheless, the Irish fleeing the potato famine populated the Union Army in the Civil War and built the canals along the Schuylkill River and the nation’s railroads under grueling conditions.
In 1902, the Chinese Exclusion Act made permanent a law first enacted in 1882 and was the first U.S. law implemented to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States. It was not repealed until 1943. During World War I, anti-German sentiment was so strong, the Justice Department, preparing a list of all German aliens, counted about 480,000 of them, more than 4,000 of whom were imprisoned in 1917-18 on suspicion of espionage — all while Theodore Roosevelt denounced “hyphenated Americanism.”
These days, when the subject of “immigration policy” is raised, the target of those discussions are more often than not, Hispanics (although Syrian and Muslim refugees from the Middle East may soon overtake Hispanics as the prime topic of discussion).
After all, no one is discussing building a wall along the Canadian border.
This focus on Hispanics is no doubt being driven, in part, by the fact that U.S. Census projections show that in the near future, nonHispanic whites will no longer represent a majority of the U.S. population.
According to the Pew Research Center, “among the projected 441 million Americans in 2065, 78 million will be immigrants and 81 million will be people born in the U.S. to immigrant parents.”
Although non-Hispanic whites will remain the largest racial or
ethnic group in the overall population, according to Pew, they will become less than a majority. Currently 62 percent of the population, whites will make up 46 percent of it in 2065.
Hispanics will be 24 percent of the population, while they are 18 percent now. The percentage of Asians will more than double, from 6 to 14 percent, and blacks will remain at essentially the same percentage, about 12 or 13 percent.
These changes will produce a rising share of nonwhite potential voters. One important factor is the rising age of the second generation — people born in the U.S. to at least one immigrant parent. This group’s median age is 19, meaning half are younger and ineligible to vote. But by 2065, their median age will be 36, according to Pew.
It is important to note in the context of this political conversation that not all Hispanics are immigrants and not all immigrants are Hispanics.
In fact, in Montgomery County, the majority of immigrants are Asian.
As the temperature of the political rhetoric around immigration rises, it’s significant that the latest census figures, released Thursday, show that in the four counties covered by Digital First Media newspapers in the Philadelphia area, the Hispanic population is actually falling in proportion to the rest of the population.
In Berks County — which has the highest proportion of Hispanic residents and is wrestling with the contentious issue of a hunger strike begun last month at an immigrant detention center in Leesport — the latest U.S. Census figures show in just one year, a drop in the Hispanic population of more than 5,300 people.
Similarly, there were about 2,000 fewer Hispanics in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties in 2015 than there were in 2014, Census figures show.
Details of the new 2015 population estimates for all localities are not released yet, but they are for Montgomery County and they paint an interesting picture in terms of the immigration policy discussion.
The census details released Thursday show that in 2015, 86,377 of Montgomery County’s residents were foreign born, representing about 11 percent of the county’s population.
Of that foreign-born population, the majority (53.8 percent) entered the country before 2000 and 83 percent of those residents are now U.S. citizens.
Overall, nearly half Montgomery County’s foreign-born population (45.8 percent) are U.S. citizens.
Also, more than half of Montgomery County’s foreign-born population (54.75 percent) are from Asia. About 20 percent are Latin American — defined by the census as Mexican, Cuban or Puerto Rican — and 19.4 percent are from Europe.
Those census figures also show that only 2 percent of Montgomery County’s foreign-born population (16,626) entered the country after 2010 and more than 77 percent of that number of most recent immigrants are from Asia.
The largest portion of Montgomery County’s foreign-born Hispanic population — 29 percent of the foreign born — entered the U.S. between 2000 and 2009, during the presidency of George W. Bush.
Even so, the majority of immigrants now living in Montgomery County who entered the country during Bush’s presidency nearly — 46 percent— are Asians.
Of the immigrants now living in Montgomery County who entered the U.S. between 2000 and 2009, 68 percent are not U.S. citizens.
By contrast, most of the 16,615 who entered the country in the last six years — 95.2 percent — are not U.S. citizens, according to the most recent census data.
The picture these figures paint of immigration indicate that:
• Asians represent the largest population of foreign-born residents of Montgomery County;
• The largest percentage of immigrant population from Latin America, (29.1 percent) came during the presidency of George W. Bush and even then, that the number of Asians coming in the same period (46.7 percent) was still much higher;
• And the longer immigrants now living in Montgomery County have been living in the U.S., the more likely they are to be U.S. citizens.
This chart of U.S. Census estimates for 2015 shows that the Hispanic population, and the percentage of the Hispanic population in Berks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties has dropped in the past year.