Special Report

States With the Largest Immigrant Populations

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4. Florida
> Pct. foreign-born: 19.9%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.7%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 69,485
> Green cards in FY 2016: 136,337
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Cuba

Just as Hawaii’s relative proximity to Asia has made it an ideal destination for immigration from the continent to the U.S., Florida’s relative proximity to the Caribbean region and Latin America has made it a gateway for immigrants from those areas. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Cubans make up the largest foreign-born population in the state, at 23.1% — Florida is just 90 miles from Cuba. The state also is home to significant populations of people born in Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia, and Mexico. In 2016, 2.5 million native-born Floridians (nearly 13% of the state’s population), claimed at least one foreign-born parent.

Haitians are the second-biggest foreign-born group in Florida, with a 7.7% share of the immigrant population.

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3. New Jersey
> Pct. foreign-born: 21.8%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.6%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 38,611
> Green cards in FY 2016: 56,187
> Origin of largest immigrant group: India

Along with Connecticut, New Jersey is the other state on this list where immigrants from India make up the largest foreign-born state population, at 12.4%. Indian migration to New Jersey ramped up after U.S. immigration laws were changed in 1965. That opened the way for Indians, many of them doctors, engineers, and other professionals who began establishing footholds in the traditional gateway city of New York. Then, Indians began relocating across the Hudson River in pursuit of lower-cost housing and better schools. Today, in towns like Edison, Iselin, North Bergen and Jersey City many local businesses are owned by immigrants from India. The introduction of the H-1B visa for foreign professionals in the ’90s, as well as the large pharmaceutical industry in the state, fueled more immigration from the Asian country, particularly of those with advanced degrees.

The second-largest foreign-born group in New Jersey is immigrants from the Dominican Republic, at 7.7%.

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2. New York
> Pct. foreign-born: 22.6%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.7%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 86,407
> Green cards in FY 2016: 159,878
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Dominican Republic

Since the 1950s, Puerto Ricans were the dominant Hispanic presence in New York City. In 2013, however, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that Dominicans had overtaken Puerto Ricans as the city’s largest Hispanic group. Immigration from the Dominican Republic was spurred by political unrest in the country in the mid-1960s, followed by decades of economic hardship. The rise of Dominicans in the city led to slight rivalry between the two groups, with some Puerto Ricans viewing themselves as the city’s Hispanic standard bearer and pioneers who suffered anti-Hispanic sentiment and discrimination. Today, with a more diverse Hispanic community in New York City and state – Mexicans and Ecuadorians are the third and fifth largest foreign born populations in New York – these rivalries have largely abated. Dominican immigrants have gained more local political representation and economic power in recent years.

Dominicans account for 10.8% of New York’s foreign-born population, slightly ahead of immigrants from China, who comprise 10.2% of the immigrant population.

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1. California
> Pct. foreign-born: 27.0%
> Pop. growth due to international immigration, 2017: 0.4%
> Naturalizations in FY 2017: 157,364
> Green cards in FY 2016: 223,141
> Origin of largest immigrant group: Mexico

The largest economy in the country, California is not only home to one in eight Americans and the largest share of foreign-born residents, but it’s also home to the most immigrants from Mexico. Four out of every 10 foreign-born immigrants in the Golden State come from Mexico. Additionally, nearly a quarter of the state’s entire population claim at least one foreign-born parent, mostly from Mexico, followed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, and India. Historically, many of the state’s first Mexicans didn’t immigrate; they were absorbed into the nation’s cultural fabric when the U.S. annexed huge portions of the West from Mexico in the 19th century. Like other U.S. southern border states, California’s agricultural industry attracted immigrants from Mexico in the 20th century — a demand that escalated during World War II due to manpower issues as a result of the war. California’s rich Hispanic history continues to make it an ideal destination for Mexicans seeking better job opportunities and fleeing poverty, political corruption, and gang violence south of the border.

Chinese make up the second-biggest foreign-born cohort in California at 8.1%.