Hispanic, Asian growth slowing, Census says

Immigration laws and economy cited

By Hope Yen
Associated Press / May 14, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Deterred by immigration laws and the lackluster economy, the population growth of Hispanics and Asians in the United States has slowed unexpectedly, causing the government to push back estimates on when minorities will become the majority by as much as a decade.

Census data released today also shows that fewer Hispanics are migrating to suburbs and newly emerging immigrant areas in the Southeast, including Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia, staying put instead in traditional gateway locations such as California.

The nation's overall minority population continues to rise steadily, adding 2.3 percent in 2008 to 104.6 million, or 34 percent of the total population. But the slowdown among Hispanics and Asians continues to shift conventional notions on when the tipping point in US diversity will come - estimated to occur more than three decades from now. Black growth rates remain somewhat flat.

Thirty-six states had lower Hispanic growth in 2008 compared with the year before. The declines were in places where the housing bubble burst, such as Nevada and Arizona, which lost construction jobs that tend to attract immigrants.

Other decreases were seen in new immigrant destinations in the Southeast, previously seen as offering good manufacturing jobs in lower-cost cities compared to the pricier Northeast. In contrast, cities in California, Illinois, and New Jersey showed gains.

In Arkansas, manufacturing and poultry companies have cut hours and workers, leaving a growing number of Hispanics unable to cover their mortgage payments, said Maribel Tapia, a housing counselor in Fayetteville, Ark. Fathers are moving out of state, where other relatives have lines on menial jobs that support the families they leave behind, she said. Police in northwest Arkansas created an immigration task force with the help of US immigration agents.

"I don't think it's more likely they're going back to Mexico or El Salvador or wherever they're from," she said. "They're just calling different family members in different states and asking around about work. They just pack up and move."