Special Report

States With the Largest Immigrant Populations

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14. Arizona
> Pct. foreign-born: 13.4%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.2%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 12,462
> Green cards in FY 2016: 20,694
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Mexico

The four U.S. states that border Mexico have among the highest foreign-born populations. Arizona joins Texas and California on this list (New Mexico ranks 19th). Aside from the region’s historic relationship with Hispanic culture dating back to before the independence of the U.S. and Mexico, Arizona has long attracted Mexican immigrants seeking agricultural work in the state.

Today, Mexican-born immigrants make up about 57% of all immigrants in the state, while an estimated 35% of Arizona’s immigrant population is undocumented migrants, according to the American Immigration Council. Arizona has taken a particularly hardline against illegal immigration. Some believe the reason is due to another demographic shift in the state — an influx of retirees in recent decades.

The second-biggest immigrant group in Arizona comes from America’s other neighbor, Canada. Canadians’ share of the foreign-born population in Arizona is 4.9%.

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13. Rhode Island
> Pct. foreign-born: 13.5%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.5%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 3,415
> Green cards in FY 2016: 4,194
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Dominican Republic

The Dominican population in the United States has more than tripled since 1990 to nearly 2 million, making it the fifth-largest Latino group in the country. The Dominican diaspora has tended to favor Florida and East Coast cities. This includes Providence, Rhode Island, which in 2010, elected its first Hispanic mayor, Angel Taveras, the son of Dominican immigrants. Dominicans make up 17.4% of foreign-born immigrants in Rhode Island. Dominican immigration ramped up in the 1960s as residents fled economic and political hardships following the assassination of dictator Rafael Trujillo by rebels. Dominican immigration to the U.S. has continued to grow as residents pursued better employment opportunities and fled ongoing poor economic conditions.

The second-biggest immigrant group in Rhode Island comes from Portugal. Portuguese-born people comprise 11.5% of Rhode Island’s foreign-born population.

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12. Washington
> Pct. foreign-born: 13.5%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.4%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 16,030
> Green cards in FY 2016: 27,304
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Mexico

Well before Washington became a state in 1889, Mexicans were travelling to the Pacific Northwest to work primarily as mule packers, contributing to a nascent transportation system established by the mining and fur-trapping trades. Mexican settlement in Washington picked up during World War II, when American men were sent to the front lines and American women took work in the factories, creating a need for agricultural laborers. Mexicans continued to pursue agricultural work as the state’s agricultural activity picked up in the 1950s. Today, Washington is a major year-round producer of many products, from apples to Christmas trees, which continues to fuel demand for immigrant labor. In 2014, Washington experienced the largest one-year increase in the number of Mexican immigrants of any state. Mexicans comprise 24.5% of foreign-born immigrants in Washington.

Chinese are the second-biggest immigrant group in Washington, accounting for 8.0% of the state’s foreign-born population.

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11. Illinois
> Pct. foreign-born: 13.9%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.3%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 24,933
> Green cards in FY 2016: 43,207
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Mexico

Anyone who visits Chicago will notice quickly that it’s one of the most Hispanic cities in the country. In 2016, Latinos – led by Mexicans – became the city’s largest minority group, surpassing the city’s sizable African American community. The Chicago metropolitan area boasts not only the second largest concentration of Mexican-born immigrants in U.S. cities, after the Los Angeles area, but also it’s one of only two urban zones among the 10 cities with the highest share of Mexican immigrants located in a state that doesn’t border Mexico.

This influx of Mexican immigrants to the Windy City area, which started around 1910 as Mexicans fled a civil war in their country to toil mostly in the Chicago area’s meat-packing plants. As Mexican immigrants integrate, many move out of Chicago to the state’s smaller communities. Today, more Illinois residents of Hispanic descent, mostly Mexican-Americans, live outside of Chicago. Mexicans account for 37.7% of foreign-born immigrants in Illinois.

The second-largest immigrant group in Illinois consists of immigrants from India, who make up 8.2% of the foreign-born population.

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10. Connecticut
> Pct. foreign-born: 14.0%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.5%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 7,441
> Green cards in FY 2016: 12,669
> Origin of largest immigrant group: India

Mexico is the country of origin of most foreign-born immigrants in many U.S. states, but not Connecticut. The New England state has attracted more immigrants from India than from America’s southern neighbor. Though it’s not entirely clear why certain immigrant groups originally gravitate to certain regions of the U.S., data shows immigrants increasingly are settling in the suburbs. This is especially true of immigrants from Asian countries, who make up the fastest-growing immigrant group. Connecticut is experiencing a demographic shift in the immigrant population, especially outside of New Haven, East Haven, and West Haven, where immigrants from Asia – mainly China and India – are settling in increasing numbers.

Jamaicans are the second largest foreign-born group in Connecticut, comprising 6.9% of foreign-born residents.