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Americans fear

By 2050, nearly one in five of the projected 438 million Americans are expected to be foreign-born, and the nation's Latino population would triple in size by this year, to 29 percent of the U.S. population, according to a study released last week by the Pew Research Center. Significant among the findings of the Pew Center's report is that 82 percent of the 142 million additional people who reside in the U.S. by 2050 will consist of immigrants and their American-born descendants. Of this number 67 million will be immigrants themselves, 47 million will be their children, and 3 million their grandchildren.

The center's conclusions are certain to fuel debate over the country's immigration policy. "You put this out there, and it will influence policymakers regardless of which side of the immigration debate you're on," said San Diego State professor and director of the International Population Center, John Weeks. "This is the wake-up call that the anti-immigration policymakers were looking for. They'll feel like if we don't do something now to stem the tide of immigration, then this country will be like a foreign country in the future."

The study also revealed the effect that immigration would have on the American labor force. The data revealed that future immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants will account for all growth in the country's working-age population of adults between 18 and 62; if there were no new immigration, there would be a decline of 7 million people in the working population. "It's very important for our labor force to have immigrants come to the United States," said demographer William Frey, of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

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