A growing percentage of Texans are originally from foreign countries, including one in four in the state’s most populous county, Harris, according to new census data.
Over a five-year period ending in 2012, Texas had the nation’s seventh-highest share of foreign-born residents: 16 percent, an increase from 14 percent in 2000 and 9 percent in 1990, according to U.S. Census American Community Survey data released last month.
In the state’s most populous counties, 23 percent of Dallas County residents were foreign born, as were 16 percent in Fort Worth’s Tarrant County, 18 percent in Austin’s Travis County and 13 percent in San Antonio’s Bexar County.
And Houston’s Harris County saw its percentage of foreign-born residents increase to 25 percent, up from 22 percent in 2000 and 14 percent in 1990.
“Houston has become one of the great magnets for the new immigration,” said Stephen Klineberg, a Rice University sociology professor.
Across the country, in 1960, foreign-born residents were typically from Europe; now, they’re more likely to be from Latin America and Asia. There are now more foreign-born Americans than ever before, though they make up a smaller percentage of the nation’s population than they did a century ago.
In Harris County, immigrants have come from Mexico and El Salvador, Vietnam and India, some with vast amounts of education and others with virtually none, to work as everything from doctors and engineers to construction workers and cooks. Houston — the nation’s fourth-largest city — is also a major destination for the resettlement of refugees from all over the world. And foreign-born residents of other U.S. states have also come to the Houston area.
Among Harris County’s more than 1 million foreign-born residents are state Rep. Hubert Vo, the first Vietnamese-American elected to the Texas Legislature, and Nandita Berry, who was tapped by Gov. Rick Perry in December as Texas’ first Indian-American secretary of state.
Klineberg expects the share of immigrants in the county to decline in future censuses because immigration has slowed and the children of many immigrants are coming of age and having U.S.-born children. Houston will still be a very diverse area, he said, but with growth fueled by U.S.-born Asian-Americans and Hispanics.
“No force in the world is going to stop Houston or Texas or America from becoming more Latino, more African-American, more Asian and less Anglo as the 21st century unfolds,” Klineberg said.