The United States is a nation of immigrants, but new arrivals to the country are more likely to flock to some states than others. The majority of the nation’s 42 million foreign-born residents live in California, Texas, New York, Florida, and New Jersey. But as the immigrant population grows — 1.4 million new immigrants arrived in the U.S. in 2014, an 11% increase over 2013 — states, such as North Dakota, Wyoming, and West Virginia, also are seeing the number of foreign-born residents rise, often by double-digit percentages.
Not everyone is happy about the growing immigrant population. Although close to ¾ of adults Gallup surveyed in 2016 believe immigration is generally good for the country, 38% also believe fewer immigrants should be allowed into the U.S. Many are worried about the effect immigrants have on employment. Forty-five percent of people Pew Research surveyed said immigration hurts American workers, while 42% said it helps.
Fears of job-stealing immigrants might be misplaced. Immigrants don’t take jobs away from native-born workers or depress wages for most groups, a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found. Although immigration can be costly to local governments in the short-term, immigrants tend to pay back that investment, as their children grow up to contribute “more in taxes than either their parents or the rest of the native-born population,” according to the report.
Like it or not, immigrants are changing the face of the U.S. While the following 10 states have relatively few immigrants compared to New York or Texas, they’ve experienced the greatest percentage change in their immigrant population* between 2010 and 2015, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The No. 1 state saw their immigration population surge 72%.
*This includes naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents, people in the country on work or student visas, refugees and asylees, and those in country without legal status.
Change in immigrant population since 2010: +14.7%
Current immigrant population: 332,000
Tennessee’s foreign-born population increased 14.7% from 2010 to 2015, going from 289,000 to 332,000. Immigrants now make up 5% of the state’s total population. That’s a significant increase from 1990, when the state’s 59,000 immigrants made up just 1.2% of the population.
Immigration is a divisive issue in Tennessee, as it is in many other parts of the country. Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the number of Tennesseans who said immigration should be the country’s top priority nearly doubled from 7% to 13%, according to Vanderbilt Poll-Tennessee. Those who identified with the tea party were much more likely to say dealing with immigration should be the number-one priority for the U.S.