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Illegal immigrants wait to jump onto a moving train that will carry them to Mexico's border with the United States (epa)
WASHINGTON, October 17, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- According to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, another person immigrates to the United States every 30 seconds. That means when the U.S. Census Clock hit 300 million today, that person was just as likely to be arriving in a plane from Kyrgyzstan as being born in a hospital in Chicago.
The new Americans are people like Lilly Dornic, who used to work in the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent until she won the "green-card lottery" for permanent-residence visas and moved to Washington, D.C.
Now she is a foreign media analyst, is married to a Frenchman -- who also has a green card -- and has a 2-year-old son. She says she had dreamt of living in the United States for years, and arriving here was like "landing on the moon."
"Sometimes I catch myself thinking, oh my gosh, here I am in the U.S. It's little things like driving in your car and going to the grocery [store]," Dornic says. "Just the freedoms you have here, you can speak your mind and not be scared of being prosecuted later, you know, or that somebody's going to come and knock on your door. It's actually, it's a miracle, every day is a miracle to me."
Dornic says she has many friends from Central Asia and Russia, and believes that they, and she, have enriched U.S. culture by coming here.
"Where else could you meet a person from Africa, from Asia, from Australia, from every continent of this world? It's only in the United States," she says. "And I think when it comes to the integration of all of us coming here, or even just the early immigrants, we have enriched the U.S. culture [and made it] more vibrant, more interesting."
Land Of Opportunity
Mikhri Babadzanova was also living in Tashkent before she moved to the United States 12 years ago. Along with her husband and two daughters, she sought political asylum. Now she and her husband teach Uzbek at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington.
She says she misses Uzbekistan, but cannot return for political reasons. But life in the United States has many advantages, she adds, including the fact that her daughters were able to attend university based on their intelligence, not a corrupt system.
"For example, if I would be in my country I have to pay [a] bribe in order for my daughter to enter [a] university, or have some relatives in this university," Babadzanova says. "But here, my daughter just took the SAT [entrance exam] and she was accepted to the university."
Babadzanova says that for anyone who wants to achieve something -- especially women -- the United States remains a land of opportunity.
Rise In Foreign-Born Population
Currently, there are some 36 million people living in the United States who were born abroad. Thirty-six percent of New York City's population and 40 percent of Los Angeles' population is foreign-born.
Over half of all new legal U.S. immigrants arrived from just 10 countries: Mexico, India, the Philippines, China, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Colombia, Guatemala, and Russia.
Russia has only recently become one of the leading "sending" countries –- and Ukraine and Bosnia-Herzegovina used to be, but are no longer in the top 10.