Where does the SECOND largest number of immigrants to SC come from?


The intuitive answer — Mexico — is correct as the answer to the question, “Where do most immigrants (or rather, a plurality of them) in South Carolina come from?” Nationally, about 15 percent of new immigrants come from our neighbor to the south, and that’s enough to put Mexico out ahead in most states.

That’s according to a map Slate put together based on Department of Homeland Security figures.

But what country comes in second? It may surprise you — it did me. It’s India. Where Nikki Haley’s people are from. Throughout the Deep South, Mexico is first and India is second. And in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland, India comes in first.

The maps offer some interesting groupings. In the very center of the country — Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa — the second-largest immigrant group is from Myanmar. And in Tennessee and Idaho, it’s Iraq. I don’t know why.

Anyway, fun facts to know and tell…

27 thoughts on “Where does the SECOND largest number of immigrants to SC come from?

  1. Doug Ross

    You haven’t worked in IT then…I am outnumbered on most of my projects by at least 3:1 in favor of Indians, most on some type of visa. It’s a policy that killed many careers in the industry.

  2. Bart

    And all this time I thought it was New Yorkers and other Northeasterners moving to South Carolina who made up the largest number of immigrants or would they be called emigrants?

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      I have long wondered what the difference was twixt emigrant and immigrant. Emigrants are leaving the country and immigrants are coming in. So Yankees emigrate from up North and immigrate here.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Right. You have to emigrate to immigrate. Two sides of the same coin. So really, you could call someone to moves to a new country either. It’s weird…

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Shlon, Moe’s uncle and proprietor of Andy’s Deli in Five Points.

          What are the Tibshranys?

  3. Kevin Dietrich

    I think it’s important to look at the numbers behind the chart. For South Carolina, we’re talking about a total of 334 individuals who were born in India – not exactly a very large percentage of state’s population. I would imagine that many of the states that show seemingly odd immigration patterns (Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa and their connection to Myanmar, for example) the same would hold true. Likewise, Iraq may be the second most-common country of origin in Idaho and the Philippines second in New Mexico, but again we’re almost certainly talking about overall small numbers.

    Here’s the chart for South Carolina and where the majority of its immigrants were born:

    Leading countries of birth
    Brazil 74
    Burma 96
    Canada 114
    China 280
    Colombia 211
    Dom. Rep. 48
    Germany 80
    Guatemala 51
    India 334
    Jamaica 129
    South Korea 61
    Mexico 478
    Nigeria 48
    Philippines 240
    Russia 85
    Thailand 59
    Ukraine 45
    UK 103
    Venezuela 48
    Vietnam 79
    Other 1,257
    Unknown 4

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Wait a minute… something’s fishy about those numbers…

      Only 478 people from Mexico? There are probably almost that many who attend Mass in Spanish at my church.

      And 79 people from Vietnam? Following that same line of thinking, I’ve been to Mass in Greenville at a Catholic Church that has Masses in Vietnamese. That seems unlikely, if there are only 79 in the state…

      1. Doug Ross

        LEGAL immigrants, right?

        Plus it is just the count for 2012 only. Over 20+ years, the numbers would be in the thousands for many countries of origin.

      2. Kathryn Fenner

        Are they all Vietnamese, or are some Cambodian, Laotian, etc.?

        Guest workers aren’t immigrants. A lot of the local Mexican farm workers are here on H-1 visas, and are only temporary.

      3. Brad Warthen Post author

        OK…. I was thinking of it as the total immigrant population. I didn’t realize it meant NEW immigrants who came in that year.

        So, as Emily Litella would say, never mind…

        That sort of makes these charts less meaningful to me. Over time, the rankings could be totally different. Tennessee might not have gotten any people from Iraq any other year in the last 20.

        I’d like to see a chart on cumulative numbers, showing how many total immigrants from each country live in each state…

  4. Bryan Caskey

    Speaking of different ethnic groups, did you know it’s not PC to say “Chinese fire drill” anymore?

    I guess I’m just a relic of a bygone era.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        I actually did a little bit of looking for the origin of the term, and here’s what I found:

        “The origin of that last term isn’t well documented, but supposedly originates from an actual fire drill on an early 20th century British ship. The story goes that the ship’s British officers had their largely Chinese crew practicing the procedure for putting out an engine room fire. One bucket brigade drew water from the starboard side of the ship, brought it to the engine room and dumped it. A separate bucket brigade scooped up the dumped water and got rid of it by tossing it over the port side of the ship. At some point during the drill, the crews got their instructions confused, and began drawing water from one side of the boat and simply dumping it over the other, without ever getting to the engine room. ”

        Huh. So it’s kind of the Brit’s fault as well. Maybe they could have given better instructions. I had never heard this story.

        Did our resident expert on British naval exploits know of this etymology?

        Related: “Dutch courage”. Should we also refrain from this one in deference to the Dutch who may have been unfairly maligned?

          1. Doug Ross

            Seems like an appropriate term for what goes on at the State House. (I had to look it up, too, Bryan).

            1. Silence

              The term “Dutch Oven” is also still quite acceptable, either in the ktichen, in the bedroom, or in an automobile.

  5. David in Nashville

    Re Iraqis in Tennesse, I’d point out that Greater Nashville (a.k.a. “Little Kurdistan”) has the largest Kurdish community in the US–one large enough that Iraq sets up a polling place for expat Iraqis here. Refugee organizations began placing them here in the 1970s, and some estimates now place the total size at over 11,000.

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