Immigrant Numbers Continue To Swell
State report surprises, given economy, 9/11
TwinCities.com, Jun. 18
Latinos, Hmong, Somalis and Vietnamese continued to boost the immigrant population in Minnesota over the past four years despite the recession and restrictions on immigration, according to a state report released Thursday.
The growth of the immigrant groups due to new arrivals and U.S.-born children was surprising because it coincided with the economic slowdown and aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to the author of the report.
“Despite the recession and despite 9/11, immigrants are still coming to Minnesota, and they’re coming in large numbers,” said Barbara J. Ronningen, a senior research analyst at the Minnesota Demographic Center.
Latinos were the largest immigrant group examined in the study. The report estimated the Latino population in Minnesota at 175,000 for 2004, a 22 percent increase from the 2000 census.
The report estimated the Hmong population at 60,000, a 32 percent increase since the 2000 census. The Hmong population will grow with the arrival of about 5,000 refugees from Thailand by the end of this year.
Somalis showed the largest percentage gains of any immigrant group. The report estimated the population of Somalis at 25,000, a jump of 124 percent over the past four years.
Saeed Fahia, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community in Minnesota, said the most recent growth estimates probably were skewed because he believed the 2000 census numbers were too low.
“My feeling is there was probably an undercount to begin with,” he said.
Fahia said immigration from Africa only recently had begun picking up after slowing to a trickle following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Secondary migration of Somalis from other states could not account for such a huge increase, he said.
The Vietnamese population grew to about 25,000 this year, an increase of more than 21 percent since 2000, according to the report.
The study also examined trends among Russians, Laotians, Cambodians and Ethiopians. The full text is available at www.demography.state.mn.us.
In 2002, 13,522 immigrants came to Minnesota from 160 countries on every continent except Antarctica. The largest number came from Somalia, which 10 years earlier had sent only six immigrants to Minnesota, according to the report.
Other populations also showed changing immigration patterns. In 1982, people from Southeast Asia made up two-thirds of immigrants to the state but 10 years later comprised just 8 percent of legal immigrants.
The estimates were derived using school enrollment data for language spoken at home and a formula that takes into account what portion of an immigrant group is of school age. Ronningen said calculating immigrant populations is difficult and the estimates may vary as much as 10 percent from the real population.
“Three years ago, we didn’t think these numbers would go up quite so rapidly because of 9/11,” said Ronningen. “After 9/11, the United States closed the gates. Refugee arrivals went down after that.”