Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Immigrants from the Middle East: A Profile of the Foreign-Born U.S. Population from Pakistan to Morocco

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Immigrants from the Middle East: A Profile of the Foreign-Born U.S. Population from Pakistan to Morocco

Article excerpt

The incorporation of persons of Muslim Middle Eastern origin into the United States of America has attracted heightened interest since the September 11, 2001. The author uses U.S. Census Bureau data to examine the increase in migrants from the Middle East as a share of currently growing total immigration into the United States and their consequent distribution, comparative educational attainment and socio-economic status within their adopted country of residence. The author perceives evidence for a further increase in the numbers of persons of Middle Eastern origin in the United States and of their share of total immigration into the United States in the near future. While noting inequity of treating migrant applicants of Middle Eastern origin differently to migrants of other ethnicities, he suggests that it would be more ethical to effect a reduction in immigration across the board combined with a more rigorous pursuit of illegal Middle Eastern immigrants in particular.

Key Words: Middle Easterner; immigration, Census Bureau, INS, education, socioeconomic status, populations, America, Christian, Muslim, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afhganistan, Turkey, Levant, Arab peninsula, Arab North Africa.

In the aftermath of September 11, 2002, there has been heightened interest in the Middle Eastern immigrant population living in the United States. Their integration and incorporation into American society has come to be seen as increasingly important.

Based on an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies of justreleased data from the Census Bureau, this article is one of the first to examine the socio-demographic characteristics of Middle Eastern immigrants in a systematic way. For the purposes of this study, the Middle East is defined as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Turkey, the Levant, the Arabian peninsula, and Arab North Africa.2

Among the report's findings:

Middle Easterners are one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in America. While the size of the overall immigrant population (legal and illegal) has tripled since 1970, the number of immigrants from the Middle East has grown more than seven-fold, from fewer than 200,000 in 1970 to nearly 1.5 million in 2000.

The INS last estimated that 150,000, or about 10 percent, of Middle Eastern immigrants are illegal aliens. Preliminary Census Bureau estimates show a similar number.

Assuming no change in U.S. immigration policy, 1.1 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) from the Middle East are projected to settle in the United Stares by 2010, and the total Middle Eastern immigrant population will grow to about 2.5 million.

These figures do not include the 570,000 U.S.-born children (under age 18) who have at least one parent born in the Middle East, a number expected to grow to 950,000 by 2010.

The religious composition of Middle Eastern immigrants has changed dramatically over the past thirty years. In 1970, an estimated 15 percent (29,000) of immigrants from the region were Muslim; the rest were mostly Christians from Lebanon or Christian ethnic minorities such as Armenians fleeing predominately Muslim countries. By 2000, an estimated 73 percent (1.1 million) of all Middle Eastern immigrants were Muslim.

Interest in coming to America remains very strong in the Middle East even after September 11. In October 2001, the Department of State received approximately 1.5 million applications from the Middle East (not including Pakistan) for the visa lottery, a program which awards 50,000 green cards each year to randomly selected applicants.

Middle Eastern immigrants are one of the most educated immigrant groups in America. In 2000, 49 percent had at least a bachelor's degree, compared to 28 percent of natives.

There is little evidence of discrimination in the job market against the group. Median earnings in 2000 for Middle Eastern men were $39,000, slightly higher than the $38,000 average for native workers. …

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