Immigration to Rhode Island
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Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states in the US and covers an area of approximately 1,545 square miles. It was the first of the 13 original colonies to declare independence from Britain during the American Revolution. The largest industries in Rhode Island are health services, tourism and manufacturing. Rhode Island’s economy is primarily based in Agriculture and Industry. The main agricultural commodities produced include: nursery stock, vegetables, dairy products and eggs. The main industrial sectors include: fashion jewelry, fabricated metal products, electric equipment, machinery, shipbuilding/boatbuilding and tourism.
Immigration to Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s largest ancestry groups are: Italian (19%), Irish (19%), French Canadian (17.3%), British (12%), Hispanic (11%) and Portuguese (8.7%). As of 2005, over 90% of the population are classified as white. Rhode Island has the highest percentage of Americans with Portuguese ancestry than any other state in the US. Rhode Island’s population increased only slightly from 2000 to 2007 according to the US Census Bureau. During this period there was a net immigration gain of 3,270 foreign-born residents and a net population loss of 4,145 residents from net domestic migration. Factoring in births, the state showed a net population increase of less than 1% (9,513 residents) during this period. This rate is significantly below the national average of 9.9%.
As of 2006, it is estimated (FAIR) that the immigrant population of Rhode Island is 137,980 which equates to approximately 13% of the state’s population. The majority of immigrants are from Portugal (17.6%), Dominican Republic (13.7%) and Guatemala (7.6%). Columbia, Italy, Canada, Cambodia, U.K., China and Laos account for another 22.7% of the immigrants to Rhode Island. Rhode Island’s naturalization rate of 47.1% is significantly higher than the national average of 40.1% based upon data recorded during the 2000 Census. This indicates a more assimilated and older immigrant population.
Illegal Immigration to Rhode Island
Rhode Island is facing a state financial budget crisis, totaling a $550 million budget deficit, which is leading to substantial cutbacks. Rhode Island is in the midst of a very intense battle over illegal immigration in New England. In 2008, Rhode Island lawmakers proposed a series of measures aimed at illegal immigrants. These measures range from expelling illegal immigrant children from Rhode Island’s healthcare system to putting business owners and landlords who harbor illegal workers to jail. These proposals are significant as Rhode Island has long touted itself as a state with a strong immigrant past.
As of 2007, FAIR estimates the state’s illegal alien population to be about 35,000 persons which equates to approximately 3.3% percent of the overall population. The annual fiscal cost to Rhode Island taxpayers for emergency medical care, education and incarceration projected by FAIR is currently $99 million. This figure is estimated to rise to $173 million per year in 2010 and $308 million per year in 2020.
Rhode Island Immigration Statistics
- Rhode Island’s immigrant population increased by 15.1% between 2000 and 2006.
- In 2005, housing authorities determined over 6,000 of Rhode Island households to be crowded or severely crowded. Studies by the Urban Institute in 2001 indicate a rise in crowded housing often correlates with in increase in the number of immigrant residents.
- According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2007 Rhode Island’s unemployment rate was 5.5%. This is slightly above the national average of 5%.