The Promised Land: The Rise of Hispanic Immigrants

The state of New Jersey has the third-highest percentage of foreign-born residents, with Hispanics making up the state's largest immigrant group.

Photo courtesy of The Everett Collection.

When the family of immigrants pictured here arrived at Newark Airport in April 1947, only 13 percent of New Jersey’s 4.8 million residents were foreign born. Today, the state’s population has nearly doubled, and the number of foreign-born residents tops 21 percent—the highest level since the 1930s.

If America is a melting pot, New Jersey is a bubbling cauldron. The state trails only California and New York in percentage of foreign-born residents. Hispanics are the state’s largest immigrant group, constituting 46 percent of foreign-born New Jerseyans. Puerto Ricans (though not foreign-born) led the Hispanic charge, starting in the 1930s and picking up again after World War II.  In the 1960s, Cubans fleeing Castro began flocking to New Jersey; Dominicans and South Americans followed in the 1970s. Today, Mexicans are the fastest-growing Hispanic group.

Asia is the other major source of new New Jerseyans, comprising 32.5 percent of the foreign born—mainly from India, China, the Philippines and Korea. Eastern Europeans, primarily from Russia and Poland, constitute 7.2 percent of the state’s newcomers.

As the state has grown, immigrants have played an increasingly important role, enriching our culture, enlivening our cities and filling jobs at all levels—from construction and farm workers to entrepreneurs, doctors and computer scientists. For most of us, it would be impossible to imagine New Jersey without a steady influx of fresh faces from around the globe.

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