The Washington Post

The U.S. immigrant population is booming. But mostly in just a handful of states.

In 1990, there were 19.8 million foreign born people in the United States. In 2012, there were 40.7 million.

Those numbers are absolutely eye-popping and, as we have written many times of late in this space, they represent a central piece of the future political puzzle for both parties.  Republicans' inability to attract any significant number of Hispanic votes in either of the last two presidential elections -- John McCain won 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, Mitt Romney won a meager 27 percent in 2012 -- presents them with a major challenge in future national elections as the white vote continues to shrink as a percentage of the overall electorate.

A new report from Pew -- these guys rock! -- suggests that while Republicans still need to be concerned about their struggles among Hispanics, the problem -- at least in the near term -- may be less dire than it seems. Why? Because the vast majority of the growth in the immigrant population is happening in a relative static number of states -- states that, by and large, are already safely in Democratic hands.

Here's awesome Pew chart, detailing the 15 states with the highest percentage of foreign born residents between 1990 and 2012.

The most striking part of the chart -- at least to us -- is how little has changed. Six states --  New Jersey, Nevada, Texas, Maryland, Illinois and Arizona -- have moved higher in the top 15 over the past twenty years. Five states -- Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Washington -- have dropped.  But 14 of the top 15 states have stayed consistent from 1990-2012.  Only the 15th state -- New Mexico in 1990, Colorado in 2000 and Virginia in 2012 -- has changed.

Write Pew's Jens Manuel Krogstad and Michael Keegan: "The 15 states where immigrants made up the biggest share of the population in 2012 account for about eight-in-ten (79%) of the nation’s immigrants. Although the rankings have changed over the past few decades, almost all of the states that have the highest immigrant population shares have remained the same."

The other interesting thing about the chart above is how Democrat-heavy it is. Of the 15 states with the highest percentage of foreign-born residents, 14 of them went for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. (The lone two exceptions are Texas and Arizona -- both of which were carried by the Republican nominee in 2008 and 2012.)  What does that mean for party politics? That even if Republicans can't find a way to solve their Hispanic problem, it will just keep making blue states even bluer.  (Of course, if Texas went over to Democrats -- which is the way the way things are headed, demographically-speaking, that would be a massive problem for Republicans.)

In short, Republicans still need to find a way into the Hispanic community. But, in the near term, the static nature of the states in which the immigrant population resides (and is growing) means that the GOP's demographic problems may not be as severe as previously imagined.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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