Asians set to be largest immigrant group in US

From left: US Transport Secretary Elaine Chao, California Congressman Ro Khanna and Seattle-based corporate lawyer Haeryung Shin.
From left: US Transport Secretary Elaine Chao, California Congressman Ro Khanna and Seattle-based corporate lawyer Haeryung Shin.

By 2055, Asians will overtake Hispanics, says study coming amid bid to curb immigration

The "model minority" is on its way to becoming the majority. Asians are projected to become the largest immigrant group in the US by 2055, overtaking Hispanics.

In 50 years, Asians will make up 38 per cent of all immigrants in the United States, while Hispanics will be at 31 per cent, Pew Research has predicted in a new study.

More Asian than Hispanic immigrants have arrived in the US since 2010. Between 2000 and 2015, the country's Asian population grew 72 per cent, from 11.9 million to 20.4 million, the fastest growth rate for any major racial or ethnic group, the Pew study said.

In comparison, the population of the second-fastest growing group, Hispanics, increased 60 per cent during the same period.

A watershed moment for the US will come in 2044, when no racial group will be a majority.

Currently, a record 20 million Asian-Americans - out of the country's population of 323 million - trace their roots to more than 20 countries in East and South-east Asia, and the Indian subcontinent, Pew said.

Taipei-born Elaine Chao, Transport Secretary, is the first Asian-American woman and first Chinese-American to be appointed to a Cabinet position.



ACHIEVEMENT

I tell people my parents immigrated from India, I was born in Philadelphia, I'm 41, and I represent now what I believe is the most powerful economic district in the United States.

CALIFORNIA CONGRESSMAN RO KHANNA, an Indian-American who won his Silicon Valley seat from a Japanese-American.



THE FACE OF AMERICA

I don't know. I am American.

MS HAERYUNG SHIN, when asked how she would picture the typical face of America. She is a Seattle-based corporate lawyer and chair of a public radio station, and was born in the US to Korean immigrants.

Some of the fastest-growing subgroups are Bhutanese, Nepalese and Burmese, with the slowest growth rates registered among Laotians and Japanese. People of Chinese origin make up the largest group, which, at 4.9 million, comprises nearly one-quarter of the Asian population.

Asian-Americans are already an integral part of the US' cultural and professional landscape, and are rising in politics, with several especially prominent in this administration. Taipei-born Elaine Chao, who is Transport Secretary, is the first Asian-American woman and first Chinese-American to be appointed to a Cabinet position.

Ms Nimrata "Nikki" Haley, Ambassador to the United Nations, was born in Bamberg, South Carolina, to Indian-American immigrants, while New York-born Ajit Varadaraj Pai is the first Indian- American to be appointed chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Ironically, the Pew study comes amid ongoing attempts to curb immigration. Last week, in the context of immigration reform, President Donald Trump tweeted: "CHAIN MIGRATION cannot be allowed to be part of any legislation on Immigration!" "Chain migration" refers to immigrants bringing their family members after them.

"Unfortunately, there has always been an ugly side to American politics, but I think our history is one where the better nature prevails in the long run," California congressman Ro Khanna, an Indian-American and a Democrat, told The Sunday Times. Mr Khanna won his Silicon Valley seat from Mr Mike Honda, a long-serving Japanese- American congressman.

"I tell people my parents immigrated from India, I was born in Philadelphia, I'm 41, and I represent now what I believe is the most powerful economic district in the United States," he said.

"Had I been born in India, I don't think I would have made it to the Indian Parliament. So, in some sense, America's system is incredibly open for immigration. We're the most open democracy in the world.

"Right now, we have people who are blaming job losses and structural changes in the economy on immigrants, and blaming immigrants for a lack of common purpose or national American identity, but I don't think that's the view that will prevail.

"One would be hard-pressed to argue that we would have Silicon Valley if it weren't for it being a magnet for the best and brightest from around the world.

"The evidence seems overwhelming that immigration strengthens our economic competitiveness. That has to be the framework for looking at the issue."

By and large, Asian-Americans are better educated, which is among the reasons why they are termed a "model minority". Just over half of Asians aged 25 and older have a bachelor's degree or more, compared with 30 per cent of all Americans in this age group, the Pew study said.

And with a median household income of US$73,060 (S$97,260) Asian-Americans also do better than the average American. Indian households have the highest median income (US$100,000), followed by Filipinos (US$80,000), Japanese and Sri Lankans (each US$74,000) - all well above the American median of US$53,600, the Pew study said.

But Asians' fortunes are also as diverse as Asians themselves. Bangladeshis, Hmong, Nepalese and Burmese have household incomes below the American median.

Ms Haeryung Shin, 53, a Seattle- based corporate lawyer and chair of a public radio station, was born in the US to Korean immigrants and grew up in a small town in Massachusetts - where she did experience mild discrimination, she told The Sunday Times.

But asked how she would picture the typical face of America, she thought for a while and said: "I don't know. I am American."



A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 17, 2017, with the headline 'Asians set to be largest immigrant group in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe