Special Report

States With the Largest Immigrant Populations

Source: Thinkstock

9. Maryland
> Pct. foreign-born: 14.7%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.5%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 17,729
> Green cards in FY 2016: 26,077
> Origin of largest immigrant group: El Salvador

For decades, the Washington D.C. area has been a magnet for Salvadoran immigrants. Today, in neighboring Maryland, immigrants from the tiny Central American country considerably outnumber immigrants from other Latin American countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. With a civil war in El Salvador in the 1970s, and continued violence in the following decade, hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans fled to the United States. Like other immigrants, they tended to go to urban centers where previous immigrants from their origin country had already established footholds. In Maryland, Salvadorans account for 12.2% of the foreign-born population. Los Angeles and the nation’s capital were early gateway cities for Salvadoran immigrants. More immigrants came to these already sizable Salvadoran communities following recent natural disasters, including hurricanes and earthquakes.

Immigrants from India comprise 6.7% of the foreign-born population in Maryland, the second-largest community.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

8. Massachusetts
> Pct. foreign-born: 15.7%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.7%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 27,739
> Green cards in FY 2016: 35,706
> Origin of largest immigrant group: China

Like Illinois, immigrants to Massachusetts have tended to gravitate to the state’s largest city, in this case Boston. For much of pre-World War II history, the Chinese settled mostly in the West, working under brutal conditions as railroad construction workers or local merchants. This influx created deep resentment with European settlers. During this period, Chinese began heading east, where anti-Chinese sentiment was less pronounced, and they began establishing what would become Chinatowns in many urban areas, including Boston. That city’s robust industrial base, and its relationship with China from the tea and silk trades, made it an appealing destination for Chinese immigrants. Today’s robust Chinese-born population in the state is attributed to Boston’s many higher-education institutions, the introduction of the H-1B skilled-worker visa in 1990, and the expansion of that visa program in 1998 and 2000. Chinese account for 9.4% of the foreign-born population in Massachusetts.

Immigrants from the Dominican Republic are the second-largest foreign-born group, comprising 7.6% of the foreign-born population in Massachusetts.

Source: gguy44 / Getty Images

7. Texas
> Pct. foreign-born: 16.7%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.4%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 50,552
> Green cards in FY 2016: 110,651
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Mexico

The Lone Star State is one of four U.S. states bordering Mexico on this list. The cultural ties between Texas and Mexico predate their independence and establishments. In the 19th century, Mexican migration to the country’s northernmost boundaries amounted to a trickle and was far outnumbered by Anglo-Americans migrants to the west. This led to the U.S. annexation of territory that today makes up significant parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Mexican immigration into Texas and other border states began in earnest during and after the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. As of 2015, more than half of the state’s foreign-born population of 4.7 million consisted of Mexicans, and an additional 4.1 million U.S.-born Texans have at least one immigrant parent. Citing official state data, a 2014 report by political opinion research firm Latino Decisions predicts the state’s Hispanic population will edge past the white population by 2020, and it will become a solid majority by 2040.

Indians are the second-biggest immigrant group in Texas, accounting for 4.8% of the foreign-born population.

Source: ademyan / Getty Images

6. Hawaii
> Pct. foreign-born: 17.9%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.5%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 3,491
> Green cards in FY 2016: 6,285
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Philippines

Because of its location, Hawaii is the only U.S. state whose foreign-born population comprises primarily of immigrants from Asian. Among them, immigrants from the Philippines make up nearly half of all foreign-born residents. Hawaii’s Philippine community dates back to the early years of the 20th century, when the state’s sugar growers began recruiting plantation workers from the country because of laws restricting the immigration of Chinese laborers. The annexation of the Philippines by the United States in 1898 also helped make the country an ideal source of plantation labor. Because of its century-long relationship with Filipino immigrants Hawaii continues to be a prime destination. Today, 46% of Hawaii’s foreign-born residents are Filipinos. This Asian migration is also heavily represented in the U.S. Pacific territories of the Northern Marianas Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

Chinese are the second-biggest immigrant group in Hawaii, accounting for 9.7% of the state’s foreign-born population.

Source: gsalermo / Getty Images

5. Nevada
> Pct. foreign-born: 19.3%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.3%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 7,438
> Green cards in FY 2016: 11,555
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Mexico

Nevada has the highest proportion of undocumented immigrants in the country, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. Nevada is no stranger to ethnic diversity. Already in 1870 it had the highest percentage of foreign-born people, nearly three times the national average at the time, according to the U.S. Census that year. The Comstock Lode discovery of silver and gold ore a few years earlier attracted prospectors form across the globe. The construction of the Hoover Dam starting in 1931 and the exploding growth of Las Vegas after World War II attracted new waves of migrant workers, many of whom traveled northward from Mexico. Today, Mexicans make up 41.2% of all foreign-born immigrants, working largely in hospitality, retail, and construction.

Filipinos are the second-biggest immigrant group, with a 14.6% share of the foreign-born population.