A child holds a sign shaped like a butterfly that says, “Here to stay,” at a rally organized by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition on March 11, 2023, at the Colorado Capitol. (Robert Davis for Colorado Newsline)
NEW YORK — A late-pandemic surge of new arrivals from India, Venezuela and China, reflecting people with legal visas and those fleeing across the United States’ southern border seeking asylum, helped bring more than 900,000 new immigrants to the U.S. between 2021 and 2022, according to a Stateline analysis of new census data.
Florida received the most migrants, according to available data, followed by Georgia, Texas, Maryland and North Carolina.
New immigrants have helped fill jobs and stem population shrinkage in larger cities, as suburbs and smaller cities attract more movers within the country since the pandemic. In some cases, they’ve also strained schools and shelters from Texas to New York.
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The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data shows 46.2 million immigrants living in the U.S. in July 2022, compared with 45.3 million in July 2021, an increase of 912,000.
That includes an increase of about 130,000 from India, a 5% increase in one year; about 122,000 from Venezuela, a 22% increase; and about 86,000, a 4% increase, from China. The survey data includes U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and immigrants and migrants living in the country either legally or illegally.
Florida saw the largest one-year increase with 208,000 new immigrants, a 5% jump. That included an increase of 65,000 from Venezuela, a 30,000 increase from Haiti, and about 18,000 more from Peru. Detailed country of birth data was released only for 28 states with enough immigrant population to measure with the American Community Survey household survey.
There also were large one-year increases in immigrants in Georgia (up 85,000), Texas (up 77,000), Maryland (up 51,000) and North Carolina (up 47,000).
Immigrant population dropped in California and Hawaii (down 24,000 in each) and Colorado (down 13,000), while there were smaller drops in Alaska, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The decrease in Colorado represented a drop of about 2%.
Countries of origin
Arrivals from India and China are more likely to use legal visas, while those from Venezuela and other countries in Central and South America, are more likely to cross the border on foot and claim asylum, living a “quasi-legal” existence while they file claims that can take years to come up in clogged courts, said Julia Gelatt, associate director for the U.S. Immigration Policy Program at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.
Immigration court backlogs are at an all-time high, with Florida, Texas, California and New York having the most cases pending.
Immigrants from India and some from China likely were mostly high-skill workers and their families with education and investor visas commonly used in both countries. In 2022, some controversial investor visas were overhauled to support more job creation in U.S. rural and high-unemployment areas. Some real estate developers have been accused of defrauding Chinese investors seeking the visas.
Immigrants from India, including long-time residents and recent arrivals, are concentrated in California (about 580,000), Texas (340,000), and New Jersey (270,000). The largest county population is in Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara and Alameda counties (about 250,000 combined) in California, where many are recruited for high-skill visas.
Many migrants from Venezuela, typically fleeing political and economic turmoil, come by foot through the jungles of Colombia and Panama to reach the U.S. border and apply for asylum. As of 2022, almost half of the Venezuelan-born U.S. residents are in Florida, about 330,000 of the national 668,000 total, mostly in South Florida’s Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. Another 100,000 Venezuelans live in Texas, mostly in Harris County, where Houston is located.
The numbers don’t reflect the past year; border crossings remained high during several months from mid-2022 to mid-2023.
Some asylum-seekers have been traveling to New York, the District of Columbia and Chicago on voluntary buses supplied either as a service or as a protest by Republican governors, though many riders move on to other, less costly destinations or get off along the way.
People think they’re just coming here to make money, when all they really want is just to get some food and supplies for their families and put a roof over their head
– Héctor Arguinzones, co-founder of Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid, New York City
Today Venezuelan asylum-seekers can receive humanitarian parole and eventually work authorization if they pass screening at border checkpoints. But many find the process too long and confusing, and end up living on charity while waiting for asylum cases, said Héctor Arguinzones, co-founder of a New York nonprofit helping Venezuelans and other new immigrants.
“It’s worse this way, because now people think they’re just coming here to make money, when all they really want is just to get some food and supplies for their families and put a roof over their head,” Arguinzones said.
New York Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has proposed state-level work authorization for migrants, which she recently called "the only way to help asylum seekers become self-sustaining, so they can move into permanent housing.”
New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat, has said the migrant influx will cost the city $12 billion over the next three years, as the city provides shelter, other services and education for thousands of new children.
Likewise, schools face a funding crisis in Liberty County, Texas, between Houston and Beaumont. There, the immigrant population more than doubled to about 15,000 between 2017 and 2022, including an increase of more than 2,000 between 2021 and 2022, almost all from Latin America. About 20% are U.S. citizens. The American Community Survey did not report individual countries of birth for that county.
The Cleveland Independent School District in Liberty County has a $125 million bond resolution on the November ballot to build more schools, but voters have rejected similar resolutions in the past, said Superintendent Stephen McCanless. It’s impossible to hire enough licensed teachers to handle the crush, he said, so the district has an arrangement to put employees with two-year degrees into classrooms with teachers supervising them.
“We went out on a limb creating this program but we had no choice, and it’s proven to be so successful it surprised even us,” McCanless said. Enrollment doubled to about 11,000 between the 2017-18 and 2021-22 school years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Students are still pouring into the district, McCanless said. More than 1,300 new students showed up during the first four weeks of school this year. Without funds for new buildings, the district is buying portable classrooms that may end up filling sports practice fields temporarily, he said.
India became the No. 1 country of immigration in Michigan (displacing Mexico) and Virginia (displacing El Salvador). The only other change was in Pennsylvania, where the Dominican Republic became the top country, overtaking India.
There also were large increases in immigrants born in Honduras, up 76,000, or 10%, and Afghanistan, up about 71,000, or 57%. Some Afghans who helped the United States during the war in their country have been offered humanitarian parole with legal residency and work permission through the Operation Allies Welcome and the Enduring Welcome programs starting in late 2021.
Immigration from Nicaragua was up 15%, or 39,000. But immigration from Mexico, the nation’s largest immigrant group at nearly 11 million, was down by about 19,000 since 2021 and has dropped by almost 600,000 since 2017.
India and China are the second- and third-largest nationalities, respectively, both at about 2.8 million since 2021.
Over the longer run, Indian immigration is up 9% since 2017, or 229,000, but the Chinese immigrant population is still down slightly from 2017, by about 11,000, less than 1%.
Stateline is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Stateline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Scott S. Greenberger for questions: [email protected]. Follow Stateline on Facebook and Twitter.
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