The 7 States With the Most Immigrants

Immigration to the United States has always had a large impact on its total population. Today, nearly 14 percent of the population is made up of foreign-born immigrants. Even more Americans are the children and grandchildren of immigrants. However, the distribution of immigration to the United States is not spread evenly across the country. Most immigrants to the United States settle down in a handful of states that are seen are more immigrant-friendly.

Certain states attract a much higher percentage of immigrants than others, either due to employment opportunities or to pre-existing enclaves of foreign communities. Although there is debate about the impact American immigrants has on the nation, most economists agree that they are vital to the nation’s workforce. Check out the states with the most immigrants (by percentage) below!

1. California

Foreign-Born Population: 27 percent

California is famous for its high foreign-born population, which consists primarily of Latin and Asian immigrants. Today almost 30 percent of the state population was born in another country. The majority of California immigrants hail from its southern neighbor, Mexico. In fact, Mexican immigration to the United States often begins in California, due to its proximity to Mexico.

Many of these American immigrants are migrant workers that join the state’s robust agricultural industry. However, others come to further their education or seek additional employment opportunities in the state. More than 27 percent of immigrants in California have a college degree.

Additionally, there are numerous sanctuary cities in California that protect undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities do not fully cooperate with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws. As a result, immigrants may feel safer in California where public sentiment is generally on their side.

2. New York

Foreign-Born Population: 22.6 percent

Although immigrants no longer pass through the famous Ellis Island to enter the United States, the city is often referred to as the “Capital of the World” and is still a major hub for U.S. immigration. Almost 23 percent of its population is foreign-born. Although New York immigration rates have fallen in the past few decades, the city and state continue to accept waves of immigrants each year.

The majority of immigrants in New York today hail from the Dominican Republic, but the state still hosts significant populations from elsewhere, including Europe, Africa and Asia. After Dominicans, the next largest groups come from China, Mexico and Jamaica, according to 2013 data. Most immigrants are concentrated in New York City.

3. New Jersey

Foreign-Born Population: 21.8 percent

Unlike New York, the neighboring state of New Jersey has a majority of immigrants from India. That is reflected in many of the neighborhoods, where Indian-owned businesses are abundant. “Little India” is a thriving area in Edison, New Jersey.

After Indians, the largest immigrant groups are Dominicans, Mexicans, Filipinos and Koreans. More than half of immigrants in New Jersey are naturalized citizens and more than 20 percent of its immigrant population is undocumented.

State immigration laws in New Jersey were recently modified so that police no longer assist in enforcing federal immigration laws except in cases involving serious and violent crimes or deportation orders. This move came in response to increased federal immigration enforcement.

4. Florida

Foreign-Born Population: 19.9 percent

Due to its close proximity to Cuba, the majority of immigrants in Florida are Cubans. This was also assisted for years by Cuban immigration laws and U.S. citizenship laws, which gave Cuban immigrants more leeway to avoid deportation and gain citizenship than it did to immigrants from other countries.

However, moves by the Obama and Trump administrations have removed many of those privileges. Nevertheless, Cubans continue to make up a large portion of immigrants coming to the state, particularly in Miami-Dade County. The city of Miami has long been associated with Cuban culture, with features like the famous Calle Ocho and the neighborhood of Little Havana.

In addition to Cuban immigrants, Florida also has numerous immigrants from Haiti, Mexico, Colombia and Jamaica. There was also a surge of Puerto Rican immigrants following Hurricane Maria. Today, undocumented immigrants make up less than 4 percent of the state’s overall population. Among the immigrant population, 18 percent are undocumented while over 53 percent have citizenship.

5. Nevada

Foreign-Born Population: 19.3 percent

Although California has the most illegal immigrants by number, Nevada is the state with the most illegal immigrants by percent of the population — 7.1 percent of the population are undocumented immigrants, compared to California’s 5.6 percent.

About 35 percent of immigrants in Nevada are undocumented, and less than 47 percent of immigrants have citizenship. In June 2019, the Nevada governor changed state immigration laws to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain professional licenses in an effort to ease economic struggles.

Almost 40 percent of immigrants in Nevada are from Mexico. However, there are also large populations of Filipino, Salvadoran, Chinese and Cuban immigrants in the state. Latin culture is widespread in Nevada, particularly toward the south.

6. Hawaii

Foreign-Born Population: 17.9 percent

The vast majority of U.S. immigration to Hawaii comes from the Philippines. More than 46 percent of immigrants in Hawaii are Filipino, followed by Chinese, Koreak, Japanese and Vietnamese immigrants. Due to the number of Asian and Polynesian residents, Hawaii’s culture has a big eastern influence. Annual festivals are held celebrating different cultures represented on the island, from the Flores de Mayo Filipino festival to the Honolulu Festival in Oahu celebrating Japanese culture.

Undocumented American immigration to Hawaii is less prevalent than immigration to other states, partially due to the island’s remote location. Approximately 17 percent of immigrants in Hawaii are undocumented, while 56.7 percent have citizenship.

7. Texas

Foreign-Born Population: 16.7 percent

Texas immigration has a long and complicated history. For many years, the territory belonged to Mexico. It was not until 1845 when it was purchased and added to the United States that its residents became Americans. For many Tejanos (Texans of Mexican descent), the border crossed them rather than the other way around. As a result, the state has always retained a large Mexican population and culture.

Today, most U.S. immigration to the state is done by Mexicans. 33 percent of immigrants in Texas are undocumented. However, due to a shift in political trends, Texas has tightened up Mexican immigration laws in recent years to reduce its undocumented population. As the current administration has changed U.S. immigration laws to restrict access to the United States, the state of Texas has followed suit.

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