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Hispanic immigration to US has peaked, Asian immigration is rising

For the first time in 101 years, Hispanic immigration last year was topped by immigrants from Asia. The number of illegal Hispanic immigrants continued to decline in 2011.

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The measure, strongly backed by the high-tech industry and touted as a boost to the U.S. economy, would have a net effect of extending more visas and eventual citizenship to students from India and China. It is opposed by most Democrats, the Obama administration and immigrant rights groups such as the Asian American Justice Center which want to see it packaged with broader legislation that extends legal status for illegal immigrants.

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These groups also oppose the proposed new 55,000 visas for foreign students because they would be offset by eliminating a lottery program that provides green cards to people with lower rates of immigration, mainly those from Africa. Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked Republicans from bringing up the bill.

A bill introduced by Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, who are retiring at the end of this session, seeks to offer some legal status to young immigrants. Critics say it falls short because it does not provide a path to citizenship, an issue that Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., describes as "non-negotiable."

About 77 percent of Hispanic voters in the November election said they thought people working in the U.S. illegally should be offered a chance to apply for legal status, according to exit polling conducted for the television networks and The Associated Press. That is compared with 71 percent of Asian-Americans and 65 percent of voters overall.

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The political implications are great.

Hispanics and Asian-Americans are the nation's two fastest-growing population groups, each increasing by more than 40 percent since 2000. A higher birth rate and years of steadily high immigration have boosted Hispanics to 17 percent of the U.S. population, compared with blacks at 12 percent and 5 percent for Asians.

Even if the nation's estimated 11 million illegal residents do not attain citizenship, the nation's Hispanics, who made up roughly 10 percent of voters in November, are expected to nearly double their share of eligible voters by 2030. Asian-Americans, who now are 3 percent of voters, will also continue to increase.

About 73 percent of Asian-Americans voted for Obama, second only to African-Americans at 93 percent and slightly higher than Latinos at 71 percent, according to exit polling.

Asian-Americans don't strongly identify with either party, but they tend to cite jobs, education and health care as issues most important to them and generally prefer a big government that provides more services. Relatively new to the U.S. and religiously diverse, Asian-Americans also may have been repelled by Republican Mitt Romney's forceful stance during the primaries seeking "self-deportation" of immigrants as well as the GOP's sometimes narrow appeal to evangelical Christians, said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political science professor at the University of California-Riverside who helps conduct a broad National Asian American Survey.

While Mexicans make up about 55 percent of illegal immigrants and other Latin Americans represent another 25 percent, Asians make up a 10 percent share, many of whom overstay temporary visas.

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AP Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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