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Migration Information Source Releases Data on Migrants in Gulf Region
Press Release
Monday, October 3, 2005

Migration Information Source Releases Data on Migrants in Gulf Region

According to the 2000 census, more than 150,000 people who were born outside the United States lived in the counties affected by Hurricane Katrina.  In the October Issue of the Migration Information Source, MPI’s award-winning online resource for migration data and analysis at www.migrationinformation.org, MPI Policy Analyst Jeanne Batalova takes a detailed look at the foreign-born population in the areas impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the unique challenges facing non-citizens. 

Figure 1. Top Five Countries of Birth for Foreign Born


Source: US Census Bureau's Census 2000 Public Use Micro-Sample (PUMS) five percent file.

Almost a quarter of all foreign-born in the Katrina area were born in Vietnam or Mexico, and 55 percent of all foreign born who lived in the Rita area came from Mexico. Together with persons born in El Salvador, Vietnam, India and Honduras, these five countries account for 69 percent of all foreign born affected by the storms.

“What’s striking about the foreign-born victims of Hurricane Katrina is that many of them arrived in the New Orleans area as refugees from other disasters, including Honduran victims of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and Vietnamese refugees who fled that country’s civil war during the 1970s,” said Marc R. Rosenblum, Visiting Scholar at the Migration Policy Institute and an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of New Orleans.

The data also show that while the foreign born in the Katrina area were as likely to be living in poverty as their native counterparts, the foreign born affected by Rita were more likely to have family incomes below the poverty line.  In the Katrina region, about 24 percent of both populations were living in poverty, while in region affected by Hurricane Rita, 27.4 percent of the foreign born and 17.4 percent of natives were living in poverty.

In addition to the challenges all evacuees are facing, noncitizens confront unique problems.

“Even legal immigrants are, in many cases, reluctant to accept federal assistance because their migration documents were lost or destroyed during the hurricanes and their aftermath,” said Dr. Rosenblum. “Undocumented immigrants will have a particularly difficult time getting back on their feet because they are ineligible for most forms of federal aid apart from immediate emergency assistance and because FEMA—in a break with previous post-9/11 policies—has made it clear that information about immigrants who accept emergency food and shelter may be shared with enforcement agents.”

The Source Spotlight contains maps highlighting where the foreign-born lived in hurricane-impacted counties, as well as tables and charts highlighting the occupations, educational level, and top 15 regions or countries of birth for the foreign-born in these areas.


If you would like to arrange an interview with Marc Rosenblum or another MPI expert, please contact Colleen Coffey at [email protected] or 202-266-1910.

For permission to reprint a map, chart or graph from the Migration Information Source for use in a news story, please contact Editor Kirin Kalia at [email protected] or 202-266-1913.