County 2nd in state for immigrant increase

October 04, 2001|By SAM SCOTT, Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — During the 1990s Imperial County had the second-highest percentage increase of legal immigrants in California, according to new report from a group that advocates a stricter immigration policy.

Imperial County also had one of the highest levels of immigration from a single country, the report states.

The Imperial Valley's foreign-born population increased an estimated 42 percent from 1990 to 1998, the report released this week by the Center for Immigration Studies states. Only one California county, Sutter, had a bigger percentage increase.

"It's very possible Imperial County is now 40 percent foreign born," said Steven Camarota, director of research for the center. "That would make it well and away one of the highest counties in the nation."

The changes were figured using 1990 census figures for foreign-born population and INS figures showing the counties of intended residence of immigrants who arrived from 1991 to 1998.


Nationwide, one in 14 counties saw its legal immigrant populations increase more than 50 percent. Most counties of great increase were in the South and Midwest, the report states.

That represents a trend where immigration expands from established areas such as California, Arizona and New York to other states, the report states.

"It's clear many more areas of the country now have a stake in the immigration debate," Camarota said.

More than 360 counties in the nation had a higher percentage increase than Imperial County. But the county's increase was noticeable, Camarota said, because Imperial County's foreign-born population was already large in 1990.

A percentage point increase in Imperial County required many more new immigrants than Dawson County, Neb. — the county with the largest percent of increase.

Across the country Mexicans constituted the largest part of the legal immigration, but Camarota said the size of the Mexican contingent in Imperial Valley was unusual. Mexican immigrants accounted for 96 percent of the 13,247 estimated legal arrivals to Imperial County from 1991 to 1998. Chinese, with 143 new immigrants, constituted the next biggest group.

"In areas with significant immigration that may be the least diverse flow of immigration coming into the country," he said.

Imperial Valley Press Online Articles