The immigration debate often centers on stemming the flow of people entering the United States illegally and what to do about securing borders to the south. But here's a fact that goes without much attention: Asians have now overtaken Latinos as the largest group of new arrivals each year.
In 2010, 36% of new immigrants were Asians compared with 31% for Hispanics, according to a report released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
That's a significant change from a decade ago, when 19% of immigrants were Asians and 59% were Hispanics.
"They were already a significant part of the immigration story. It seems like in the last few years they are the most important part of the immigration story," said Karthick Ramakrishnan, a political scientist at the University of California at Riverside, and expert on Asian-American immigration and civic participation.
He said that if the trends continue, Asian-Americans will play greater roles in shaping American society and perhaps, more significantly in an election year, they will have an impact at the polls.
"This is an important moment to see immigration for what it is -- that it is far more complicated and diverse than deporting illegal immigrants," Ramakrishnan said, referring to discussion sparked by President Barack Obama's policy shift last week to spare some children of illegal immigrants from deportation.
Far fewer Asian-Americans enter the United States illegally than do Hispanics. The Pew survey looked at recent arrivals of people with both legal and unauthorized status, as well as those arriving with work, student or other temporary visas.
Pew's exhaustive new report on Asian-Americans found important differences between Asian-Americans and other population groups in America. It also shed light on the diversity among Asian-Americans, who sometimes cringe at the broadness of the category that covers every country of origin from Afghanistan to South Korea.
The Pew survey showed that across the board, Asian-Americans are more satisfied than any other Americans with their lives, finances and direction of the country.
They also place more value on traditional marriage, family and parenthood and usually possess a strong work ethic.
Nearly seven in 10 respondents said people could get ahead if they are willing to work hard. And 93% of Asian-Americans describe people of their origin as "very hard-working," whereas only 57% said the same about Americans as a whole.
Asian-Americans also attain college degrees (61%) at about double the rate of recent non-Asian immigrants (30%), Pew found.
"The overall picture that you get from this survey is that, like immigrants throughout American history, Asian-Americans are strivers," said Pew's Paul Taylor, who edited the study.
"But what's interesting about them are the educational credentials." He said. "By far they are the best educated in American history."
It's not that Asian-Americans value education more.
"Everyone values education," Ramakrishnan said. "But the difference is in the sacrifices Asian-Americans are willing to make."
He said his department's research has found instances where Asian families in Southern California will move into a much smaller house in order to live in the best school districts.
However, some Asian-Americans recognize that they may go overboard in stressing hard work.
Nearly 39% in the Pew survey said Asian-American parents put too much pressure on their children to do well in school. Think "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," the provocative memoir by Yale Law Professor Amy Chua that sparked conversation about strict parenting.
Pew recognized the vast differences between the nationalities lumped under the U.S. Census Bureau category of Asian-American -- the six major countries are China, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Vietnam and India.
Indian-Americans lead other groups in terms of income and education.
Seven in 10 Indian-American adults ages 25 and older have a college degree, compared with about half of Americans of Korean, Chinese, Filipino and Japanese ancestry, and about a quarter of Vietnamese-Americans.
Ramakrishnan attributed that largely to the fact that the Indians coming to America are the cream of the crop. They also have very high proficiency levels in English because of a history of British colonialism.
As a whole, Pew found Asian median income and household wealth exceed those of average Americans.
Asian median annual household income is $66,000 versus $49,800 for all Americans.