Immigrants make up large and growing shares of the U.S. workforce, tax base, business community, and electorate. They also account for one out of every eight people in the United States, and one out of every six workers. Almost one half of immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote.
Immigrants — and their cultural, political and economic influence — are sprinkled across America. Our cities are brimming with immigrants who add significant economic and cultural value to their communities. Kyle Walker, assistant professor of geography at Texas Christian University, has mapped these immigrant communities in a colorful way.
Using census tract data, Walker represents the concentration of America’s immigrant population as dots, colored according to their country of origin (shown in key at left). What results is a unique mix of colors—an immigrant fingerprint of each city, showing where its immigrant residents are from and where they currently live.
Take the map of New Orleans below. Immigrants from Latin America seem to make up a huge share, but you can see the green cluster of Southeast Asian immigrants near the northeast areas of the city, where a large community of more than 14,000 Vietnamese immigrants exists in neighborhoods like West Bank, Algiers, Avondale, and other areas of New Orleans.
In the mid 1970s, Louisiana began to attract many foreign-born refugees from Vietnam. Vietnamese refugees began to immigrate to southern Louisiana, a region that, like Vietnam, had French influence, a similar climate, and a fishing industry. Eventually, many Vietnamese moved into the area and developed a tightly knit ethnic enclave in eastern New Orleans.
You can check out the maps of the Gulf Coast’s other cities below:
Pensacola has always been a melting pot of immigrants, mostly as a result of the historic maritime industry of the City of Five Flags. From its beginnings as a lumber boomtown providing safe harbor for the Spanish, French, and British to the immigrant tradesmen and maritime crews of Greek, Norwegian, and Swedish descent. More recently, immigrants of Southeast Asian and Hispanic origin have settled in the area — most notably Vietnamese and Filipino immigrants who began moving to the city after the Vietnam War and the Fall of Saigon.
Alabama’s earliest resident immigrants were primarily of French and Spanish origin. During the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, they were joined by Irish, German, and Italian settlers. More recently, Latino immigrant groups have located within Mobile.
Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach is one of the smallest cities on the Gulf Coast but is home to a surprising amount of immigrants thanks to the presence of the nation’s largest and busiest Air Force installations — Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. Immigrant military families from Germany and East Asia remain among the largest populations of new immigrants to the area. The metro also boasts a strong Latino and Mexican immigrant population.
Beginning in the 1970s and through the 21st century, immigrants from Korea, Vietnam, India and China had become a top-five countries of origin for immigrants in Mississippi. Indians entered as professionals, initially drawn to employment in hospitals and universities; subsequently, migrants were owners of small businesses. The presence of China among the top five countries reflects the large increase in the number of foreign born from China between 1990 and 2000. The Chinese are largely employed in managerial and professional occupations, and some work in technical, sales, and administrative support.
In the early 1990s, Mexican migrants came to Louisiana to work in shipbuilding and fabrication yards in the southern coastal areas of the state, and many in Mississippi are employed in the casino industry or in forestry.