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Thread: Census: U.S. Arab Population Is Surging

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    Post Census: U.S. Arab Population Is Surging

    Census: U.S. Arab Population Is Surging
    Wed Dec 3, 9:07 PM ET

    By JONATHAN D. SALANT, Associated Press Writer

    WASHINGTON - The Arab population in the United States has nearly doubled in the past two decades, according to the Census Bureau's first report on the group.

    Experts cited liberalized U.S. immigration laws and unrest in the Middle East that led many people to come to America.

    The bureau counted nearly 1.2 million Arabs in the United States in 2000, compared with 860,000 in 1990 and 610,000 in 1980. About 60 percent trace their ancestry to three countries: Lebanon, Syria and Egypt.

    The census report stops at 2000, so there is no data to measure the impact of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But tighter immigration procedures imposed after then have reduced the flow of Arabs to the United States.

    While earlier Arab immigrants came from countries with large Christian populations, newer arrivals come from heavily Muslim countries such as Iraq and Yemen.

    "Immigrants from the Arab world come for the same reason all immigrants come — economic opportunity, opportunities to have an education, to develop a professional career," said Helen Samhan, executive director of the Arab American Institute Foundation, a research group.

    Samhan said the lifting of U.S. immigration quotas in the 1960s opened the door to people from Arab countries and many took advantage during the 1980s and 1990s, with a large number coming from nations such as Lebanon and Iraq where there were wars.

    Almost half of the Arabs in the United States live in five states — California (190,890), New York (120,370), Michigan (115,284), New Jersey (71,770) and Florida (77,461).

    "It would be better to come to America than Europe or Canada," said Zak Trad, 33, of Anaheim, Calif., who came from Lebanon three years ago. "It's the largest Arab community not in an Arab country. I didn't think I would be a stranger here."

    New York City, the first stop for millions of immigrants for more than a century, had the largest Arab population among U.S. cities, 69,985. The Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Mich., where many Arabs first settled to work in the automobile industry, was next at 29,181.

    Sterling Heights, Mich., was the city with the largest percentage of Arab-Americans, 3.7 percent, followed by Jersey City, N.J., with 2.8 percent. Dearborn's population is about 30 percent Arab but it was not ranked because the Census Bureau only counted cities with at least 100,000 residents; Dearborn has about 98,000.

    The Census Bureau asked those who received the long version of their decennial questionnaire to list their ancestry. The form was sent to about one-sixth of all households.

    Arab-Americans say their population is larger than that reported by the Census Bureau, but many are reluctant to fill out government forms because they came from countries with oppressive regimes.

    The Arab American Institute Foundation said that just over 15,000 visas were issued to immigrants from Arab countries in 2002, compared with more than 21,000 in 2001.

    "The fact that immigration procedures and visa applications have been so tightly screened is going to slow down the volume of new immigrants," Samhan said. "The scrutiny that will be placed on immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries is going to be even greater than other places."

    The backlash that occurred against Arab Americans following Sept. 11 served to draw them closer and get more involved in politics. The concentration of Arab-Americans in a few key election states, particularly Michigan, also has boosted their political influence.

    In October, seven of the eight Democratic presidential candidates attended the Arab American Institute's national leadership conference in Dearborn, as did the heads of the Democratic and Republican parties.

    "These days, anything that moves votes one way or another by the thousands can have an impact of seismic proportions," said pollster John Zogby, himself an Arab-American.

    ___

    On the Net:

    Arab American Institute census information: http://www.aaiusa.org/census.htm

    Census Bureau: http://www.census.gov

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    Keep in mind the census only counts the legal immigrants, the real number for Arabs in Michigan is estimated closer to 300,000..

    Michigan charges Arabs in baby scam

    By Steve Miller
    THE WASHINGTON TIMES


    The Michigan Attorney General's Office has charged 23 Arab women with fraudulently using American social-service money to pay for childbirth before returning to their native countries of Lebanon, Syria and Yemen with a total of 34 babies.

    The suspects, whose children are now U.S. citizens by virtue of being born here, have not been located and it is unlikely that their countries would allow extradition if they were.

    "Each of the women had their babies and departed within two or three months," said Sage Eastman, a spokesman for state Attorney General Mike Cox. "Three of these women did this more than once. We are not aware of where they are and it is possible that these women will never return to the U.S."

    "This was a very thought-out process, from the first step to the last step," he said. The total fraud in the case is estimated at $150,000.

    Mr. Cox said the women falsified Medicaid documents before delivering babies at several Detroit-area hospitals from 1997 to February. More charges against more individuals may be filed as the investigation continues.

    The women have been charged with fraud because they applied for emergency care, which required them to affirm they would seek permanent residency. Mr. Eastman said their visitor visas showed they would return to their homelands.

    Visitor visas are good for varying periods, determined by immigration agents at ports of entry. Mr. Eastman said he did not know how long these women's visas were good for.

    For years, pregnant women from Mexico have come to U.S. hospitals to deliver, thus securing citizenship for their offspring. U.S. citizens, in turn, can sponsor family members for citizenship here when the child reaches 21 years of age.

    Last month, there were reports of baby brokers in South Korea who arranged for pregnant women there to be brought to U.S. territories, including Guam, for birth.

    In Michigan, though, such incidents are rare.

    The FBI assisted with the initial investigation, which included a raid last fall of a local hospital and several doctors' offices. Mr. Eastman said all of the women charged had contact with the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), an umbrella organization that provides all kinds of help to recent immigrants.

    ACCESS was asked at that time for its records regarding some referrals from doctors, said Ismael Ahmed, executive director of the 32-year-old agency.

    "It was made clear to us that we were not the target of any sweep," Mr. Ahmed said yesterday. "But because of the size and scope of our operation, we provide help to pretty much any Arab American who comes to us."

    The agency's tax-exempt status, in fact, requires that it render services, from counseling to job placement to medical referrals. The agency last year received $6.8 million in government grants, according to its tax form.

    Sixty percent of ACCESS service goes to Arabs, he said, in large part because the region has the largest Arab population in the United States. An estimated 300,000 Arab-Americans live in southeastern Michigan. The agency makes around 500,000 contacts a year, Mr. Ahmed said.

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    At least 3.5 million* Americans are of Arab descent. Arab Americans live in all 50 states, but two thirds reside in 10 states; one third of the total live in California, New York, and Michigan. About 94% live in metropolitan areas. Los Angeles, Detroit, New York/NJ, Chicago and Washington, D.C., are the top five metro areas of Arab American concentration.

    Lebanese Americans constitute a greater part of the total number of Arab Americans residing in most states, except New Jersey, where Egyptian Americans are the largest Arab group. Americans of Syrian decent make up the majority of Arab Americans in Rhode Island, while the largest Palestinian population is in Illinois, and the Iraqi and Assyrian/Chaldean communities are concentrated in Illinois, Michigan, and California.

    The majority of Arab Americans are Christian.



    Catholic include Roman Catholic, Maronite, and Melkite (Greek Catholic)
    Orthodox includes Antiochian, Syrian, Greek, and Coptic
    Muslim includes Sunni, Shi'a, and Druze

    Source: Zogby International February 2000


    * Every ten years, the Census takes the demographic pulse of the population, collecting information ranging from family size and citizenship to education, income, and occupation. A question on “ancestry” or ethnic origin gives us a snapshot of that segment of the country, which identifies with an Arabic-speaking origin.

    Historically, only a portion of this population self-identifies with an Arab ancestry, resulting in a numeric undercount by a factor of about 3. Limitations of the sampling methodology, combined with non-response by some, under-response (only two ethnic backgrounds are tabulated and reported), and reporting ancestry as race, results in relatively higher under reporting among Arab Americans. While the 2000 Census accounted for some 1.25 million persons who self-identify with an Arabic-speaking origin, our estimates (based on research done by the Zogby International polling and marketing firm) place the population at more than 3.5 million.

    Arab American Demographics

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    The Arabs have a major identity crisis. That is my only comment on that. One major reason why they are coming over here is because the Middle East's governments do not know how to run the country.

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