7.16.2007

The ‘New South’ -- an Immigrant-Friendly Place

The ‘New South’ -- an Immigrant-Friendly Place (by Patricia Thomas, New America Media, 7.15.07)

Patricia Thomas opened the joint New America Media and University of Georgia Immigration Summit...The day brought Southern immigrant rights organizations together with ethnic media. Thomas is a professor at the University of Georgia. The following are excerpts from her address to the summit:

The answer is that my family made the same journey that your families, and all the other families in your communities, made. They just made the trip a couple of generations earlier.

And, as you know, timing is everything.

People who made the trip more recently–like your readers and listeners–cannot forget for a minute where they came from and how they got here. Not in Georgia, not in the South, not in 2007.

But I do know there’s been a tremendous influx of immigrants into the Southeast over the past 20 years.

• In 2000, the most recent immigrants to the Atlanta area came from Mexico, India, Vietnam, Korea and Jamaica. Further down the list were Colombia and China, along
with several European nations.
• If you look at places where the Latino population soared by more than 300 percent between 1980 and 2000, 11 of 18 of these so-called “hypergrowth” areas are in the South.

Atlanta will probably never have Hispanic or Asian communities the size of those in Los Angeles or New York, or even a black community as big as New York’s. But in terms of trends, all three of these populations are increasing rapidly in Southern metropolitan areas.

According to a Brookings Institution report, Diversity Spreads Out,
• Hispanic communities are growing fastest in Atlanta, Georgia, Charlotte and
Raleigh, in North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, and four metro areas in Florida.
• Southern cities where Asian populations are soaring include
Atlanta, Orlando and the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
• Black populations are also increasing in many parts of the South.

Diversity Spreads Out emphasized a phenomenon you no doubt already know about: immigrant communities are shifting away from inner cities and coastal port cities and toward suburbs and inland areas, where the cost of living is lower.

Cultural diversity is coming to small towns and rural counties: University of Georgia researchers found that during the 1990s, Hispanic populations soared by nearly 300 percent in 62 Georgia counties.