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By Filipa Ioannou June 17, 2016

Joaquin Castro to Trump: San Antonio is 60 percent Mexican-American - Mostly True

Considering the polarization Donald Trump’s promised border wall has created in the presidential campaign thus far, it’s no big surprise that there was apprehension in his visit to San Antonio — the largest majority-Hispanic city in America as of the 2010 Census.

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a longtime Clinton supporter, took to Twitter on June 6, 2016 with his take: "@realDonaldTrump is coming to San Antonio, which is 60% Mexican-AMERICAN & built on respect for many cultures. The last place he'd fit in."

"That was my best approximation of San Antonio’s Mexican-American population," Castro said in an email we fielded via his press secretary, Erin Hatch.

We wondered whether Castro’s very specific tweet accurately described San Antonio’s demographics. Is the city 60 percent Mexican-American?

We started by looking at what percentage of San Antonio’s population claims Mexican heritage when describing their ancestry to the U.S. Census Bureau.

According to methodology information on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, when U.S. Census respondees check the box identifying as "Hispanic/Latino," they’re asked about their "specific origin," with four possible answers: "Mexican, Mexican Am[erican], Chicano," "Puerto Rican," "Cuban," and "another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin" (with a write-in option).

According to numbers from the most recent American Community Survey in 2014, the city of San Antonio is 63.8 percent Hispanic or Latino (916,540 of 1,436,723 people are Hispanic or Latino). The 822,106 people identifying their specific origin as Mexican are by far the largest subgroup, making up 57.2 percent of the city’s overall population — not 60, but close. The margin of error given is plus or minus 0.9 percent, so it could be as high as 58.1 percent or as low as 56.3.

But what about the "American" part of Castro’s claim? The bureau counts every resident, regardless of immigration status.

So, how many of that 57.2 percent of San Antonians are citizens?

On this front, we turned to the Texas state demographer, Lloyd Potter, who by email pointed us to Census Bureau numbers estimating that in 2014, roughly 11 percent of Hispanics in San Antonio (almost 90 percent of whom are Mexican or Mexican-American) were noncitizens as of 2014.

The 2014 Census data doesn’t specify the citizenship status of San Antonians of Mexican origin, but since Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are such a large share of San Antonio’s Hispanic population, the citizenship numbers for Hispanics overall can help us get a rough idea of how many Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are citizens in San Antonio.

Estimating using the overall citizenship rate for San Antonio Hispanics of 89 percent would mean that of 822,106 Mexican Hispanics in San Antonio in 2014, 731,674 were citizens. The same year, by our calculation using the bureau’s population estimate for the city, those citizens would have comprised 50.1 percent of San Antonio’s population -- and 55.9 percent of San Antonio’s population of U.S. citizens (which totaled 1,309,676 that year).

Complicating things is the existence of legal permanent residents (green card holders). These people are not naturalized citizens but could be considered "Americans," since they are authorized to live and work in the country indefinitely so long as they don’t violate certain rules -- according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, "Lawful permanent residents are legally accorded the privilege of residing permanently in the United States." They pay taxes, register for the draft, and have Social Security numbers.

In 2013, a report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics estimated that 1.32 million permanent residents lived in Texas, 950,000 of whom were eligible to be naturalized as citizens.

Bureau records don’t show how many live in San Antonio, but it’s perhaps worth noting that some of that 11 percent of San Antonio Hispanics who are noncitizens are likely to be permanent residents.

It’s also been a year and a half since the American Community Survey was conducted (in January 2014). In the period since, the Hispanic share of San Antonio’s population (which has historically grown faster than the overall population) has probably increased. By email, Potter told us "The county population projections for Bexar County produced by the Texas Demographic Center indicate the percent of the population that is Latino will continue to increase and the percent that is non-Hispanic white will decline."

Our ruling

Castro said San Antonio is 60 percent Mexican-American.

The city of San Antonio is 63 percent Latino, or Hispanic, with the number of people of Mexican descent pegged at 57 percent of the population. But how many of those residents are American, either naturalized or holding permanent resident cards, is undetermined.

Because of the unknowns, we rate this claim Mostly True.

MOSTLY TRUE – The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

Our Sources

Report, "The Hispanic Population: 2010," Sharon R. Ennis, Merarys Ríos-Vargas, and Nora G. Albert, U.S. Census Bureau, May 2011

Census data, "Hispanic or Latino Origin by Specific Origin, 2014 American Community Survey 1-year estimate, San Antonio city, Texas," U.S. Census Bureau, Sep. 17, 2015

Census data, "Place of birth by nativity and citizenship status, 2014 American Community Survey 1-year estimate, San Antonio city, Texas"  U.S. Census Bureau, Sep. 17, 2015

Email, Lloyd Potter, state demographer, Texas Demographic Center, June 9, 2016

Phone interview and email, Erin Hatch, press secretary for Rep. Joaquin Castro, June 10, 2016

Blog post, "Mexican Immigrants in the United States," Aaron Terrazas, Migration Policy Institute, Feb. 22, 2010

Report, "Estimates of the Legal Permanent Resident Population in 2012," Nancy Rytina, Office of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security, July 2013

Report, "Estimates of the Lawful Permanent Resident Population in the United States: January 2013," Bryan Baker and Nancy Rytina, Office of Immigration Statistics, Department of Homeland Security, March 2015

Report, "San Antonio Demographic Distribution and Change, 2000 to 2010," Department of Planning and Community Development, March 2012

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Joaquin Castro to Trump: San Antonio is 60 percent Mexican-American - Mostly True

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