The roots of today's new settlement patterns are complex. The construction booms and the proliferation of hotels and restaurants that accompanied the 1990s economic boom increased the demand for low-wage labor. US employers encouraged the migration of foreign workers, and immigrants responded. During 1996–2000, the US labor force expanded by 6.7 million people. Foreign-born workers comprised nearly half of the labor force increase. Male foreign-born workers accounted for almost two-thirds, and female foreign-born workers accounted for more than a third of the increase.2
Also, during the 1980s, several corporate giants emerged in the
processing of beef, pork, chicken, and fish. These industries began to
relocate from the North Central states to the South and South Central
and some Eastern seaboard states to be closer to the feedlots and to
employ non-union, low-wage laborers.3 Located in small, rural
communities with little local labor, processing companies recruited
immigrant workers from California and Texas, as well as directly from
Mexico and Central America. Communities such as Rogers, Arkansas or
Winchester, Virginia now have sizeable immigrant populations and the
in-flow of immigrants is directly related to the food-processing
industry. Today, active recruitment is often not needed because
immigrant networks draw newcomers, often encouraged by hiring bonuses
for friends and relatives.
Outside of construction, food
processing, and manufacturing, new settlement areas are found in
agricultural regions, particularly in areas specializing in crops that
are labor intensive to grow and/or harvest. Again, the forces that have
driven this process are complex. Growers of labor-intensive crops have
cast a broader net to find workers, and there has also been a heretofore
unprecedented "settling out" of new immigrants into new destinations.
The "Latinization" of agriculture has occurred in the apple groves of
Washington State; the mushroom sheds of New England; the grape and row
crops of southern California and the orange groves of southern
Florida.4 Immigration is now more than ever a national
Micah Bump is a Research Associate at Georgetown's Institute for the Study of International Migration. His work focuses on new settlement areas, immigrant integration, human trafficking, and remittances.
1 Schmidley, Dianne, 2003. "The Foreign-Born Population in the United States: March 2002." Current Population Reports, P20-539, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, D.C.