We have a pretty good idea who lives in New Orleans, and for immigration-related conversations, that’s important. Debates fueled by abstractions are prone to factual errors and misremembered facts, but when we can talk with more substance about who immigrants are and how they fit into a city, we can make better policy. As immigration lawyers, we often have people who want to bounce their theories off of us, and they’re frequently genuine but flawed by bad information. Thanks to data gleaned from the census conducted in July 2018, we can now talk with some specifics about who’s who in New Orleans.
The highlights of the study published last week tell us:
- That New Orleans remains a predominantly African-American city, but the margin is declining. In 2000, there were 323,392 African Americans. In 2018, that number had declined by 92,245 to 231,147. The white population is similarly down, but only 8,631, from 128,871 to 120,240. The one population to grow is Hispanic. It rose from 14,826 to 21,963.
- That the Hispanic population is growing across the region. It went from 3 percent of the population of Orleans Parish in 2000 to 6 percent now. Jefferson Parish showed the biggest percentage growth as it went from 7 percent of the population being Hispanic in 2000 to 15 percent in 2018, but Plaquemines Parish saw growth from 2 to 8 percent, St. Bernard went from 5 to 10 percent, St. Charles Parish went from 3 to 6 percent, St. John the Baptist Parish went from 3 to 6 percent, and St. Tammany Parish grew from 2 to 6 percent. Metro New Orleans went from 4 percent Hispanic to 9 percent Hispanic, and nationally during that time, Hispanics grew from 12 percent of the population in 2000 to 18 percent in 2018.
- That the Hispanic population has grown by 6 percent nationally from 2000 to 2018, and it grew by more than that in Jefferson Parish (8 percent). In Plaquemines Parish, it grew by the national average and for the rest of the region, it grew by 3 of 4 percent.
- Not only did the Hispanic population grow by the greatest percentage in Jefferson Parish, but it grew by the greatest number as well. It has the largest Hispanic population in the region with 64,499, up from 32,418. By comparison, New Orleans has grown to 21,963—10,455 fewer Hispanics now than Jefferson Parish had in 2000 at the start of the time period examined in the recent study. Since 2000, there have been more Hispanics in Jefferson Parish than the rest of the region combined.
- The largest Hispanic group in the region is Honduran. Hondurans make up 29 percent of the Hispanic population, followed by Mexicans (20 percent). In Orleans Parish, that translates to 20 percent of the Hispanic population being Honduran and 27 percent Mexican, whereas Jefferson Parish’s Hispanic population is 38 percent Honduran and 18 percent Mexican. Since only two percent of the national Hispanic population is Honduran, we can see that the metro New Orleans region is a hub forHonduranmigration.
- The population of non-natives grew along similar lines, with the greatest concentration coming in Jefferson Parish. There, the population of those born outside of the United States grew from 7.5 percent to 13.4 percent, whereas Orleans Parish saw growth from 4.2 percent to 5.4 and St. Tammany went from 2.4 to 4.4. Here Jefferson Parish more closely reflects the national trends. Non-natives made up 11.1 percent of the national population in 2000, but they made up 13.7 percent of the population in 2018.
The study goes on to examine housing, transportation and Internet access, and some those factors might help explain why the immigrant population continues to grow in the number and rate that it does in Jefferson Parish. The fact that there was a substantial Hispanic community in Jefferson Parish explains in part why other Hispanics and particularly other Hondurans are drawn to it. At the same time, there’s more room for growth in Jefferson Parish, and the high cost of housing in Orleans Parish has likely prompted immigrants to look to surrounding parishes for housing. Clearly, that’s a subject for additional study.
This study and others like it help us better understand the realities of the communities we live in—a realitythat’seasy to lose track of in a time when it is so easy for us to silo ourselves and inadvertently isolate ourselves from others not like us. As immigration lawyers, we see many of these developments and deal with these communities, but a study like this one lends credence to the anecdotal evidence we see walking through our offices. This information helps us better understand our city and region, just as similar studies do in other cities. It also gives us some real information to add to the public discourse at a time when people making policy are doing so in bad faith.
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