Nebraska: A gateway for immigrants

Posted on February 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm

By Haley Dover

A reasonable cost of living and jobs in agriculture, manufacturing and meatpacking contribute to Nebraska becoming a gateway into America for the growing foreign-born population, an immigration expert said Thursday.

Caroline Brettell, an SMU anthropology professor, said many small businesses are being revived by immigrants. / Courtesy photo

Caroline Brettell, an anthropology professor at Southern Methodist University who has studied global immigration patterns, said the growing foreign-born population in Nebraska is part of a national trend of immigrants seeking new destinations.

In a lecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Jackie Gaughan Multicultural Center, Brettell noted that 44.4 percent of Nebraska’s foreign-born residents have moved to the state since 2000.  In Lincoln alone, 7.4 percent of the population is foreign-born.  Nationally 12 percent of the population is foreign born.

Cities like Boston, Atlanta and Phoenix increasingly have become popular destinations for immigrants, she said, but traditional gateways like New York City, Chicago and Miami remain popular, too.

“Continuous gateways have always attracted more than their fair share of immigrants,” Brettell said. “Immigrants are still going to those traditional cities.”

New patterns have shown immigrants moving into the suburbs, rather than to the center of cities, she said.

Lincoln residents may notice the immigrant population from neighborhoods or small businesses that they own. Brettell finds that many small businesses are being revived in the hands of the immigrant population.

Brettell said some things to watch for in a growing foreign-born community are: political mobilization, festivals, bilingual education and opportunities for interaction between immigrants and native-born people. She has recently been considering a project that would study where cultural interactions occur.

As the United States is considered a melting pot, Brettell said everyone has a connection to immigration in some way.

“We all have a story of immigration,” she said,  “whether it is recent or in our distant past.”



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