Immigration to the United States last year had its smallest increase in a decade, and the proportion of Latin Americans among immigrants fell, according to calculations published Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The calculations show that last year in the United States the number of foreign-born residents totaled 40.4 million, equivalent to 13 percent of the total population.

But the increase of 400,000 immigrants was the smallest number in a decade and the proportion of Latin Americans within that group fell from 54 percent of immigrants in 2010 to 52.6 percent last year, at the same time that the proportion of immigrants from Asia and Africa rose.

A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center found that the largest immigration flow in history from a single country - Mexico - to the United States has ended and the flow of Mexicans may well have reversed.

The pause in northbound migration is the result of different factors including the crisis in the U.S. construction sector, greater vigilance on the border, the increase in deportations and the long-term decline in birthrates in Mexico, according to study.

The new figures from the Census Bureau show the U.S. poverty index rose from 15.3 percent of the population in 2010 to 15.9 percent in 2011.

This means that last year some 48.5 million people living in the United States had an income below the poverty level. The annual average household income fell by 1.3 percent, from $51,144 to $50,502.

A record 13 percent of U.S. homes received food stamps, meaning that one in every eight families ate decently because they were subsidized by the government to some degree.

But the distribution of poverty was not equal: among the 52.28 million Hispanics, 13.24 were below the poverty line, or 25.3 percent.

Hispanic families are more prone to suffer from hunger and poverty than any other group, according to the non-profit group Bread for the World.

Poor Latino families live with the lack of food security. That is to say, "at some time of the day, the week or the month they do not have enough to eat," Ricardo Moreno, the organization's spokesman, told Efe.

Moreno said that "the interesting thing is that the figure has remained at the same levels despite the economic crisis, in part thanks to the federal nutrition programs" like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants and Children).

"The big problem that we have is that due to the fiscal and budget crisis the government is considering making serious cuts in these programs," he said. 

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