Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Golden State Magnetism: Why California is the World's Top Immigrant Destination

I've blogged quite a bit over the last couple of months on illegal immigration, for example, on the radical takeover of the recent immigration protests and on the impediments to securing our southern border. Thus it was a real pleasure to read this piece in the Los Angeles Times yesterday on the continued allure of the California Dream. The story is particularly noteworthy because it is a chronicle of the legal immigration process at work. Here are accounts of people moving from all over the world -- the internal migration found in Americans relocating to the sunny climes of the California coast and the external migration of citizens the world over looking for a fresh start in the land of opportunity. Below is a key passage from the article. For the graphic on California's projected growth click here.

For all the attention focused of late on illegal immigration, California is by far the favorite destination of legal immigrants to the United States — about 200,000 in 2005 alone. Moreover, although the numbers fluctuate with the economy, the Golden State remains a powerful domestic magnet as well, with about 600,000 people from other states arriving here last year. No matter how taxing life sometimes seems here in the most populous state in America, newcomers still outnumber defectors, drawn by varying notions of the California dream." California is one of the very few states whose allure has never faded," said Marc Perry, chief of the Census Bureau's Population Distribution Branch. "The faces of the immigrants change, the tongues they speak change, but the people keep coming."Why do they come? One of the strongest and most enduring reasons is the sunshine itself. " A Climate for Health & Wealth Without Cyclones or Blizzards," boasted an 1885 booklet from the Chicago-based California Immigration Commission....

Not everyone comes for the sunshine, of course. Galina Angarova was wooed in part by what all that sunlight produces. Living in Moscow, she met and married a Northern Californian. They moved to San Francisco in August; she never wants to leave. In the Siberian village where she was born, she said, "not a lot of things are available, even food. You will not find an avocado....A lot of my friends don't know what sushi is." Angarova, 30, is eating her way through San Francisco. "The number of good restaurants here on Fillmore Street," she said, "exceeds the number of good restaurants in all of Moscow. "The quality and range of the food here are indeed a wonder, thanks to some of the world's most bountiful soil and accomplished chefs. Even the grumpiest Californians would concede that. But try driving across town to a favorite restaurant, they say. Try to find parking at your favorite market. Still, newcomers tend to see congestion differently from longtime residents' view. When Vasinee Florey, 45, left suburban Bangkok for suburban San Francisco, the first thing she noticed about the traffic was that "it's better" here." You should see the traffic in Thailand, especially in Bangkok," she said. "You cannot go far in an hour." Everything's relative, in other words. Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California, crunched census statistics to uncover the reasons why some people come and go. California's humming economy was the strongest draw; the unemployment rate in several big counties, including Orange, San Diego and Riverside, is significantly under the national rate. More than a third of the arrivals from other states told the Census Bureau recently that they're here for job reason.
Stories like these have been repeated again and again over generations. It's heartening to be reminded of the vibrancy of the American promise and the success of the legal immigration process. This is the way America ought to be taking in its newcomers -- in contrast to the millions of undocumented aliens who cross our borders and then demand to be put in front of the line in securing benefits and legal status.

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