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 U.S. Population to Hit 300 Million in 2006
Jun 25  -  By STEPHEN OHLEMACHER  -  Associated Press Writer


The U.S. population is on target to hit 300 million this fall and it's a good bet the milestone baby will be Mexican.

No one will know for sure because the date and time will be just an estimate.

But Latinos _ immigrants and those born in this country _ are driving the population growth. They accounted for almost half the increase last year, more than any other ethnic or racial group. White non- Hispanics, who make up about two-thirds of the population, accounted for less than one-fifth of the increase.

Phil Shawe sees the impact at his company, Translations.com. The New York-based business started in 1992, when it mainly helped U.S. companies translate documents for work done overseas. Today, the company's domestic business is booming on projects such as helping a pharmacy print prescription labels in up to five languages or providing over-the-phone translation services for tax preparers.

"It's been a huge growth area for our business," said Shawe, the president and chief executive. "Not only is the Hispanic market growing faster than the average, but it is also growing in purchasing power."

When the population reached 200 million in 1967, there was no accurate tally of U.S. Hispanics. The first effort to count Hispanics came in the 1970 census, and the results were dubious.

The Census Bureau counted about 9.6 million Latinos, a little less than 5 percent of the population. The bureau acknowledged that the figure was inflated in the Midwest and South because some people who checked the box saying they were "Central or South American" thought that designation meant they were from the central or southern United States.

Most people in the U.S. did not have any neighbors from Central America or South America in the 1960s. The baby boom had just ended in and the country was growing through birth rates, not immigration, said Howard Hogan, the Census Bureau's associate director for demographic programs.

In 1967, there were fewer than 10 million people in the U.S. who were born in other countries; that was not even one in 20. White non- Hispanics made up about 83 percent of the population.

Today, there are 36 million immigrants, about one in eight.

"We were much more of an insular society back then," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "It was much more of a white, middle-class, suburban society."

As of midday Sunday, there were 299,061,199 people in the United States, according to the Census Bureau's population clock. The estimate is based on annual numbers for births, deaths and immigration, averaged throughout the year.

The U.S. adds a person every 11 seconds, according to the clock. A baby is born every eight seconds, someone dies every 13 seconds, and someone migrates to the U.S. every 30 seconds.

At that rate, the 300 millionth person in the U.S. will be born _ or cross the border _ in October, though bureau officials are wary of committing to a particular month because of the subjective nature of the clock.

Hispanics surpassed blacks as the largest minority group in 2001, and today make up more than 14 percent of the population.

The growth of the Latino population promises to have profound cultural, political and economic effects.  "I think we've already seen these changes," said Clara Rodriguez, a sociology professor at Fordham University.  "I think the music has been influenced by the Caribbean rhythms and the Latino singers," Rodriguez said. "I think economically, clearly immigrants are coming to work."

Don't forget the salsa-ketchup wars, well-publicized since salsa surpassed ketchup in U.S. sales in the 1990s, pitting the two condiments in a seesaw battle for supremacy ever since.

Many people are embracing the changes, but some are not, as evidenced by the national debate on immigration. The growing number of Hispanics is closely tied to immigration because about 40 percent are immigrants.

"I think there is a little bit of a culture shock effect, especially with the language," said Frey, the demographer. "But as people get to know their new neighbors, they find they are not that different from them."

The U.S. added 2.8 million people last year _ a little more than a million from immigration and about 1.7 million because births outnumbered deaths.

The U.S. is the third largest country in the world, behind China and India. America's population is increasing by a little less than 1 percent a year, a pace that will keep it in third place for the foreseeable future, said Carl Haub, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau.

The world, with a population of 6.5 billion, is growing a little faster than 1 percent a year.

By the time the U.S. population hits 400 million, in the 2040s, white non-Hispanics will be but a bare majority. Hispanics are projected to make up close to one-quarter of the population, and blacks more than 14 percent. Asians will increase their share of the population to more than 7 percent.

Those percentages, however, are just projections. They are subject to big revisions, depending on immigration policy, cultural changes and natural or manmade disasters.

"In terms of projecting out a year or two, we're not too bad," said Hogan of the Census Bureau. "In 2043, I don't think anybody here would think they are particularly accurate."

One thing is certain: A lot more people who say they are Central American or South American will actually be from those places.

"The over 40 population dominated by the baby boomers, they're the ones in power now," said Frey. "But when we get to 2043, a lot of them will not be with us anymore. Those under 40 will be in power and we will be even more of a global society."

 U.S. Officials Fear Spike in Illegals Entering in Cars
Monday, June 19, 2006

TIJUANA, Mexico With windows tinted charcoal black and a hint of new-car smell lingering inside, the Chevy Suburban with California plates nearly made it through a border inspection booth. Then a customs officer spotted something behind the back seats.

Under the gray carpeting lay 14 undocumented Mexicans -- eight women, five men and a little boy -- packed together so tightly that some had to remove their shoes to fit.

They're part of a growing number of migrants sneaking across the border in cars and trucks. Some cram themselves into empty gas tanks, hollowed-out dashboards and even engines. Others hide inside cargo, from pinatas to washing machines.

Many try to ride across in plain sight of border agents, using falsified or borrowed documents. And while some smugglers use stolen cars or used vehicles that are hard to trace, others pay U.S. citizens to drive migrants across.

In fact, so many U.S. citizens try to drive carloads of undocumented migrants across that federal authorities have begun issuing $5,000 fines for Americans caught doing it. Nearly 300 fines have been levied since the program took effect Jan. 23, said Adele Fasano, Southern California director of field operations for Customs and Border Protection.

Now that National Guard troops are patrolling the border and Congress is discussing extending border fences, U.S. officials worry vehicle crossings could become even more common.

Most try to cross into California, where U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers captured 49,243 illegal migrants trying to drive into America last fiscal year -- 92 percent of all in-vehicle apprehensions nationwide. The rates this year were up slightly through April, even before troops began arriving at the border.

As illegal border crossings elsewhere become more risky, more migrants may try to drive across to San Diego, counting on Tijuana's sophisticated smuggling networks and a climate near the ocean that is relatively mild compared to the deserts further east.

"To put somebody in a compartment or a trunk out in Arizona or even Calixico (California) and the desert areas in Texas, the temperatures reach very high levels in the summer," Fasano said. "They could be looking at murder charges."

In the case of the Suburban, Mexican Alejandro Prieto tried to drive across using someone else's valid border-crossing card. He told prosecutors he's not a smuggler -- and that he only agreed to drive to avoid paying the $2,500 fee smugglers would have charged to sneak him into the U.S., according to court documents.

Prosecutors are pursuing smuggling charges against Prieto because he was carrying a child and such a large number of undocumented migrants. But the vast majority of drivers apprehended face no criminal penalty.

"The thing that causes us difficultly is just volume," said James Hynes, director of the busy San Ysidro crossing between Tijuana and San Diego. "We'd like to prosecute them all, but the system can't handle it, so we take the best cases."

Tens of thousands of migrants get away with it. Others barely escape alive.

Jesus Guerrero, 38, said he agreed to pay a people smuggler $2,600 to get him to Los Angeles, where a landscaping job was waiting.

Shortly after 7 a.m., he climbed into the trunk of a Toyota Camry with two women, fellow illegal migrants he had never met. A smuggler drove them into California through the Tecate border crossing, but failed to stop at a U.S. Border Patrol highway checkpoint.

As the car sped away, authorities punched holes in two tires, causing it to flip onto its side and collide with a concrete barrier. Rolling around in the trunk, Guerrero thought for an instant he had been killed.

"It's common, but it's very dangerous. I recommend nobody do it," said Guerrero, interviewed at a Tijuana migrants' shelter. "It's horrible."

Guerrero, who bruised his arm in the crash, said crossing had become too dangerous, and he planned to return to his native Sinaloa state, even though his wife and 10-year-old son -- an American -- live in Los Angeles.

Brigido Vargas, a 50-year-old mechanic from the western city of Guadalajara, said he would try to drive across after getting caught trying to hike through the Arizona desert.

"I don't even speak Spanish that well," Vargas said, describing his plans in English.

Vargas said his wife, four children and 12 grandchildren are all American citizens, but he's got a criminal history that bars him from becoming a citizen, even though he's lived in Los Angeles since age 9. He plans to drive over the border using his brother's California driver's license.

"In a car, you can get through the border really easily," he said.




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