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Florida Third In Immigrants

Study: Florida third in immigrants

By Larry Lipman, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Florida has the third-highest population of foreign-born residents in the United States and the number is increasing at roughly 6 percent a year, despite the nation's economic slowdown and increased border security, according to a study released Tuesday.

Florida is home to more than 3 million legal and illegal immigrants -- an increase of 357,000 between January 2000 and March 2002, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures analyzed by the Center for Immigration Studies.

"There is no evidence that the economic slowdown that began in 2000 or the terrorist attacks in 2001 have significantly slowed the rate of immigration," said Steven Camarota, the center's research director. "More than 3.3 million legal and illegal immigrants have entered the country since January of 2000."

The center advocates a reduction in immigration rates to about 300,000 a year.

New immigration and births to immigrant women account for at least two-thirds of Florida's population growth in the past two years, the report said.

California and New York have the largest number of immigrants -- 9.1 million and 3.9 million, respectively -- and the highest percentage of their population, 26.4 percent and 21 percent. New Jersey has the third-largest concentration of foreign-born residents, 18.5 percent, followed by Florida with 18.4 percent. There are about 31.1 million immigrants among the nation's 282 million residents, or 11 percent.

Camarota argues that population increases from immigration account for most of the nearly 8-million-person increase in the number of Americans without health insurance over the past dozen years. The report said that in Florida:

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32 percent of immigrants and their children under 18 lack health insurance, compared to 13 percent among those born in the U.S.

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45 percent of foreign-born residents and their children live in or near poverty, compared to 31 percent of native-born residents.

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23 percent of immigrant-headed households receive at least one major welfare program benefit, compared to 15 percent of native-born residents.

Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center, which monitors Hispanic life in the U.S., argued that the report misrepresented the recent increase in immigration because it did not account for those who returned to their country or died here.

Suro described the report as a "highly selective use of data to support their argument about what the future of immigration should be."

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