Louisiana Offers Immigrants “Gateway of America”

Reform Rally

Although its immigrant population is relatively small compared to its other regional neighbors, Louisiana’s culture and heritage are shaped by diverse groups of immigrant.

With a range from Acadians (Cajuns), Creoles, and French settlers to the Irish, Germans, Chinese, Africans, Haitians, and Canary Islanders who followed, immigrants settling in the “Gateway of America” at the Port of New Orleans have planted a hefty footprint in Louisiana’s economy and cultural heritage. Despite the notable immigrant influence in the state, reported numbers attributed to the Pew Hispanic Center puts the state’s foreign-born population at around 173,000— just under 4 percent of the state’s total population.

Gulf region catastrophes are among the most substantial influences on current immigration trends in Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill were both devastating events on the area. Since then, the area has worked to move forward in its recovery, working to rebuild industrial development. Correlating to recovery of the shipbuilding and Gulf Coast seafood industries, the state has seen a notable influx of Mexican workers, according to a Map the Impact report on the state.

Reported research on the state’s immigrant population likewise reflects a significant entrepreneurial contribution from immigrants living in Louisiana. In terms of national numbers, immigrants start more than a quarter of businesses in some of the country’s fastest growing industries. This includes health care, construction, retail and educational services. Specifically where Louisiana is concerned, immigrants in the state generate $691 million in business revenue annually. The number of immigrant business owners in the state is reported at 14,726—8.2 percent of all business owners in the state.

While immigrant business owners are already making a significant impact on Louisiana’s economy, reported numbers from Regional Economic Models Inc. (REMI), providing a legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will generate more than 5,700 jobs and more than $500 million for the state by the end of the decade. Where an expansion of the H-1B program is concerned, REMI estimates an additional 1,800 jobs with more than $169 million for the state.

Nationals from Mexico, Vietnam and China comprise Louisiana immigrant’s to countries of origin. In the first decade of the century, in the years from 2000-2010, Louisiana’s foreign-born population grew by 45.6 percent.

Map the Impact is a project developed by the Partnership for a New American Economy. The project looks at immigration issues and trends across each of the 50 states.