America's Asian Population Is on the Rise

By W.D. Reasoner on June 21, 2012

The Pew Research Center has just released a very interesting report indicating that the Asian population has surpassed the Hispanic population as the most rapidly growing demographic segment in the United States.

Given the many cultural and other variations within each group, it might be more appropriate to refer to Asian and Hispanic "populations", in the plural. Still, one supposes that, as shorthand, reference to each "population" in the singular is acceptable for the purposes of this blog.

The formal title of the Pew Center's report is "The Rise of Asian Americans", but, as they indicate in their explanation of terminology, "Unless otherwise noted, survey results for 'Asian Americans' and 'U.S. Asians' refer to adults living in the United States, whether U.S. citizens or not U.S. citizens and regardless of immigration status. Both terms are used interchangeably. Adult refers to those ages 18 and older." In other words, the report includes Asians residing in the United States both legally and illegally.

This demographic shift is interesting on many levels, not least of which is because, unlike the many individuals from our Hispanic neighbors to the south who simply cross the U.S.-Mexican border illegally, most Asians who are in the country without status came here legally as nonimmigrants and then overstayed their visas. They had to because, except for the relative few who used smuggling groups based in Mexico or Canada to pass them across the land borders, geography required that they cross oceans and continental land masses to get here — leaving them with little option but to avail themselves of at least superficially legal means to come and then remain past their authorized stay. The Department of Homeland Security tells us that 40 percent or more of the total illegal alien population in the United States is derived from such overstays.

China and India are the two most populous nations on Earth, and although both have made great economic strides, that is by relative measures and there is no doubt that, given the opportunity, many Chinese and Indians, not to mention individuals from other Asian nations, would migrate to the United States. And that opportunity is likely to grow as China eases travel restrictions for its citizens and as the cost of international airfare comes within the grasp of more Indians, Chinese, and others throughout Asia. It seems likely that the future trend of illegal immigration to the United States will to some extent parallel that of Australia, which, as an island, confronts its illegal entrants completely via air and sea.

This apparent demographic shift leads to another question worth pondering, fraught as it may be with delicate national, racial, and ethnic overtones. Traditionally (again, because of competing European colonial history and geography in the Western Hemisphere), Hispanics have pretty much dominated the issue of illegal immigration to the United States — including whether, and how, to deal with assimilation through amnesty. For instance, if one thinks of major open-borders and immigrant advocacy groups, they include MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense Fund), LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), and the National Council of La Raza ("The Race").

But the Pew report suggests that the demographics of race and immigration are undergoing change, and one suspects that we are seeing the future in this trend.

The question is this: Will La Raza and the other organizations continue to be so ardently in favor of open borders and unrestrained immigration if they believe that the population they represent faces increased pressure from, and competition with, other racial and ethnic groups that have migrated? That remains to be seen. It will be a test of the legitimacy and depth of their philosophical beliefs.