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California Leads U.S. in Foreign Born

The numbers top 40% in Santa Ana, Los Angeles and Anaheim, the Census Bureau says.

September 04, 2003|Jennifer Mena | Times Staff Writer

Seven California cities, led by Santa Ana, are among the nation's top 10 ranked by percentage of foreign-born residents, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Wednesday.

Based on a 2002 survey, the bureau estimates that 48% of Santa Ana's population is foreign-born, second in the United States to Miami, where an estimated 61% of the residents were born on foreign soil.

Ranking behind Santa Ana were Los Angeles, with 41% of the population foreign-born; Anaheim, 40%, and San Francisco, 37%. Also among the top 10 were San Jose, Long Beach and San Diego.

The data reflect variations from a 2001 survey that showed Santa Ana with a higher percentage of foreign born residents, 56%, and Los Angeles with a slightly lower estimate of 40%. The fluctuations are not considered statistically significant, said Kevin Deardorff, chief of immigration statistics for the Census Bureau.

California ranked first among the states for the proportion of its population -- 27% -- who were foreign-born, followed by New York with 21%, and New Jersey, 19%, according to the report. Nationwide, 12% of the population is foreign-born.

The findings released Wednesday were based on responses from a sample of 740,000 people nationwide.

The report "is a reconfirmation that Santa Ana is a welcoming place for new immigrants," said Santa Ana Councilman Jose Solorio.

"They come to achieve the American dream in Santa Ana, whether they are immigrants from Mexico, Vietnam or Europe. Many immigrants have made the city their home."

Solorio said strong businesses and lower housing costs attract newcomers who work in service jobs in Orange County. Dealing with new immigrants has become routine: The city prints information about its services in English, Spanish and Vietnamese and hires mostly bilingual employees.

Local population statistics showing the number of foreign-born residents can help public agencies fashion services, said Hans Johnson, a demographer at the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco. For example, they might influence the types of books purchased by local libraries, he said.

He and others noted, however, that there were no surprises in Wednesday's data. "A substantial share of our population is foreign-born and has been for years," said Johnson. "This set of statistics will not stop people in their tracks."

Census data are helpful when tracked over time, showing trends in immigrant numbers, their home ownership, income and other statistics, said James Allen, a demographer at Cal State Northridge.

The report once again puts Santa Ana among a list of cities with notable statistical profiles. In 2001, census data showed the city as the "most Spanish speaking," with 74% of residents speaking Spanish at home, more than any other city in the United States.

The faces and customs behind the statistics bring comfort to such residents as Maricarmen Ruvicalba, who came to Santa Ana nine years ago. She attends Spanish-language Mass and relies on the Main Street market that stocks products she bought in Mexico years before: Jumex mango nectar, pinto beans and Mexican Ariel laundry detergent.

"This is a great place to live for someone who doesn't speak a lot of English and can't make a living in Mexico. Everything is here for us," said Ruvicalba, 34, a mother of three whose husband is a construction worker.

Deardorff said his agency in 2000 began producing more reports, known as the American Community Survey, based on smaller samples with the intent of one day eliminating the large studies done only once a decade.

The smaller reports are intended to generate data not just on population, but on issues ranging from child guardianship to commuting patterns.

The 2003 study will survey 3 million people in targeted cities, he said.



Top 20

Large United States cities with the highest percentages of residents who are foreign-born.

*--* Percent Rank City Foreign-born 1 Miami 60.6 2 Santa Ana 48.4 3 Los Angeles 41.3 4 Anaheim 40.3 5 San Francisco 36.7 6 San Jose 36.5 7 New York 36.0 8 Long Beach 30.9 9 Houston 28.1 10 San Diego 27.9


*--* Percent Rank City Foreign-born 11 Oakland 27.1 12 Boston 27.0 13 Dallas 26.5 14 Sacramento 26.4 15 Honolulu 25.5 16 El Paso 24.9 17 Stockton 24.2 18 Riverside 23.9 19 Fresno 22.7 20 Chicago 22.6


Note: A large city is defined as having a population of 250,000 or more.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

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