Equity & Diversity

America’s Newest Immigrants: Who Are They? Where Are They?

By Lesli A. Maxwell — November 18, 2011 2 min read
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The latest data dump from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals interesting changes to immigration patterns, especially some shifting in the countries of origin of newer waves of immigrants and where these newcomers are choosing to live.

There are 40 million foreign-born residents as of 2010, the majority of whom came to the U.S. prior to 2005. But 17 percent are “newly arrived,” which by the Census bureau’s definition means they came to the States between 2005 and 2010.

And while the traditional gateway states of California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas are still home to the most foreign-born residents, the most recent immigrants have scattered to more states than their predecessors. Notably, states with small immigrant populations overall have had much higher proportions of recent entrants than the traditional gateway states. That happens to include Alabama—now home to the nation’s toughest immigration law—where 33 percent of its foreign-born population has arrived just since 2005.

Digging into the “Newly Arrived Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 2010" report, which the Census released yesterday, you’ll find that since 2008, immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for just 41 percent of newcomers. Prior to 2005, immigrants from that region constituted 54 percent of new arrivals.

It’s especially striking to see what’s happened to the flow of Mexican immigrants in just a few years. The foreign-born from Mexico accounted for 30 percent of newly arrived immigrants who entered prior to 2005, 28 percent for the 2005 through 2007 period, but only 19 percent of those who entered since 2008. One researcher’s hypothesis is that the expansion and improvement of schooling in Mexico has stemmed the flow of immigrants to the U.S.

I would think, though, that the ferocious drug war raging along the Mexico-U.S. border has discouraged many would-be immigrants from crossing the border illegally. And the downturn in the American economy has most likely had a major impact too.

It’s also notable that the percentage of immigrants from China and India has steadily risen, constituting 9 percent and 8 percent, respectively, of the newly arrived foreign born.

All of this shifting, of course, impacts K-12 schooling. As we know, more and more schools around the country are seeing children in their classrooms who do not speak English and must learn the language.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.