Book: D.C. Area Now Major Urban Gateway for Immigration

Dena Levitz, The Examiner (Washington, D.C.), March 17, 2008

Immigrants from all corners of the world have moved into D.C.’s suburbs so quickly during the past two decades that one in five regional residents is now foreign-born, according to a book being released by the Brookings Institution today.

The Washington metropolitan area is one of four “emerging gateways” chronicled in “Twenty-First Century Gateways,” which delves into the explosion of immigrants in suburban—rather than urban—communities.

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What sets the Washington area apart is the sheer amount of change, the speed at which it has happened, the extraordinary diversity of cultures represented as well as the wide dispersement of cities in the region with staggeringly high immigrant populations.

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In 1980, there was no place in the Washington region where immigrants made up 30 percent of more of the population. By 2000, there were roughly two dozen jurisdictions that fit that description, with some having close to 40 percent of their population being non-natives.

Altogether the region boasts more than 1 million immigrant settlers at the moment, quadruple the amount in 1980. These newcomers’ home countries range from El Salvador to Korea to Pakistan, the book states.

Two locales, in particular—Montgomery and Fairfax counties—have led the demographic shift. The two counties have more than half of the region’s population and about that percentage of its immigrants.

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Immigrants, particularly those of Hispanic or Asian descent, by and large avoid moving into areas dominated by black residents, Price said, which may explain why areas of Prince George’s County and the District have experienced less dramatic immigrant growth. What’s unclear is whether the avoidance is of the black population itself or the conditions of the areas in which they often reside such as lower quality schools.

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