Asian immigration to U.S. outpaces Latin American immigration, trend reflected among international students

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When UT international student Daniel Shih was in third grade, he moved from his homeland Taiwan to an international school in Beijing. There, his family encouraged him to look at universities outside of Asia. 

“From that point on, we had a clear vision of me studying abroad in the U.S.,” Plan II sophomore Shih said. “I wanted to do something a little more different.”

Newly released Census Bureau data shows Asian immigration to the United States outpaced Latin American immigration during the recent census period, according to a report from The New York Times. Immigrants are also more likely to be
college-educated, as opposed to immigrants in previous decades. 

On campus, there are more than three times as many Asian international students as Latin American international students, according to fall 2017 data from International Student and Scholar Services. More than 60 percent of international students are Asian, a number that has remained around the same since 2010. 

While Asian international students are here on student visas and are not considered immigrants, many, such as Shih, do want to join the growing wave of Asian immigrants. Shih said in his opinion,
freedom of speech and better education were reasons Asian students and immigrants wanted to come to America. 

Shih said he would like to stay in America after he finishes college, but the fight for a green card may end in a loss. International students applying to immigrate to the United States are not automatically approved.

“It’s less of a ‘I want to stay here,’ and more of a ‘If I get to be here,’” Shih said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s not really in my power.”

Su Yeong Kim, a human development and family sciences professor, said she frequently works with Asian international students working on their Ph.D. Generally, those students often try to stay in the United States. 

That uncertainty of obtaining legal immigration status is often felt hardest by Latin American immigrants in recent years, Kim said. She said this could be a factor in why Asian immigration is
outpacing Latin American immigration.

“My impression is that I think (Latin American immigrants) are just not feeling Americans are as friendly toward immigrants as they used to be,” Kim said. “I think there aren’t as many coming in that way.”

Kim believes the more favorable perception of Asian immigrants is largely because of media and government depictions.

“Asian immigrants, they have lots of stereotypes,” Kim said. “They’re considered industrious, hardworking people. Some of that, people kind of take to heart and think there’s some truth to it, so in some ways they don’t get criminalized like the way Latin American immigrants do in the United States.”