Chicago’s Mexican Immigrant Population Declining | WBEZ
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Chicago’s Immigrant Population Down By 30,000 Over The Past Decade

Chicago lost more than 30,000 immigrants in the last decade, according to a new report from the Metropolitan Planning Council.

The decline in Chicago’s immigrant population is steepest among Latino immigrants, especially Mexican-born residents, according to the report.

Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) President Norma Rios-Sierra said gentrification and a lack of jobs are two big reasons for the loss.

“We have a sanctuary city that is not actively helping our immigrants be able to stay,” Rios-Sierra said. “We need legislation and city ordinances and we need affordable housing projects to move forward because, if we don’t, we will continue to lose people.”

Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood is one of the areas most affected by the recent decline in immigrant population. Last December, a WBEZ analysis showed the white population had surpassed the Latino population in the Logan Square neighborhood. In 1980, Logan Square was majority Latino. Since 2000, the Latino population has fallen there by more than 20,000, while the white population has grown by more than 12,000.

“Displacement and immigration enforcement are like a two-headed dragon for our families,” Rios-Sierra said. The lack of affordable housing in her neighborhood, plus landlords that require background checks and fingerprinting, have forced out her Latino neighbors from the community, she said.

LSNA is focusing its efforts on Hermosa, the neighborhood just west of Logan Square, where a lot of displaced residents have moved, Rios-Sierra said. “There is still a strong immigrant stronghold [in Hermosa], and we’re trying to maintain that.”

She added that the loss of immigrant populations also results in a loss of culture.

“It’s really sad to see residents moving in who are upset about an ice cream truck making noise in the summer, or people having their quinceañeras in their backyard,” Rios-Sierra said. “Those are things that really celebrate who we are, so it’s really hard to see people come in and dislike it and complain and call the police.”

Sylvia Puente, executive director of the Latino Policy Forum, said that the drop in the immigrant population is a trend that deserves attention, but that the numbers are not particularly alarming.

“This is 31,000 over 10 years,” Puente said. “It’s not 31,000 in a year. It’s like 3,000 people per year.”

Puente attributed the decrease, particularly among Mexican immigrants, to a slowdown in migrants coming to Chicago from Mexico, which has had a stronger economy in recent years than it did in the 1990s. She also pointed out that the decline could be a sign of other trends, such as the upward mobility of Mexican immigrants who arrived in the 1990s, gained an economic foothold in the city, and then took their families to the suburbs.

In addition, Puente said Chicago is no longer the sole point of entry for immigrants, as it was in previous decades. “They go directly to Skokie. They don’t stop in Chinatown anymore,” Puente said. “They go directly to Palatine, Carpentersville, Waukegan, Elgin and Aurora; they don’t go to Pilsen and Little Village anymore.”

The Metropolitan Planning Council’s report showed that Chicago’s immigrant population decline is higher among less-educated immigrants, those without a high school diploma. The number of Asian immigrants has increased, although they make up a considerably smaller portion of the total population.

Esther Yoon-Ji Kang is a reporter for WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. Follow her on Twitter at @estheryjkang.

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