The United States’ proud identity as the “land of opportunity” has been a clarion call for immigrants since our country’s founding.
While playing a large role in building the nation from “sea to shining sea,” immigrants also helped weave diverse customs into the cultural fabric of America—from food to fashion, from religion to politics, from music to literature, and more. But the most distinguishing trait people brought from their far-flung corners of the globe is…language.
Today, as the number of foreign-speaking residents continues to rise in the United States, there is a growing need to expand translation and interpreting efforts for immigrants: governments and non-profits must ensure access to public services; hospitals and medical practitioners must provide proper healthcare; schools must educate students and converse with parents; police, lawyers and the courts must adapt new law enforcement techniques; businesses must meet federal, state and local anti-discrimination regulations; employers are striving to strengthen their workforce with the most skilled and talented employees available; and businesses large and small are competing to sell their products and services to new markets.
The bottom line is that immigrants remain a powerful stimulus to our country’s evolution. Consider these important immigration trends and opportunities:
- Since 1970, the number of U.S. immigrants more than quadrupled as it grew from 9.6 million in 1970 to 41.3 million in 2013. The immigrant share of the total population over that same time increased from 4.7 percent to 13.1 percent.
- Immigrant growth is occurring in communities across the country, not just in big cities. They contribute millions of dollars to their state’s economy each year.
- Nationwide, 85 percent of the foreign-born population speak a language other than English at home.
- Across the country, immigrants started businesses at much higher rates than the native born, and immigrants had higher rates of business ownership overall.
- More than 60 communities across the nation have joined the “Welcoming America” initiative, which seeks to attract more foreign-born residents to achieve such as goals as reversing population decline, revitalizing neighborhoods and business districts, and bolstering the cultural and economic prosperity of the community.
- Overall, immigration strengthens the workforce and increases economic activity. For example, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston each have strong immigrant populations and are leading economic centers, accounting for about one-fifth of the country’s gross domestic product.
Here’s a brief snapshot of how states in different parts of the country are seeing the impact of immigration growth:
- New York’s immigrant population consists of almost one in four people in the state, which amounts to more than 4 million immigrant residents.
- Between 2000 and 2013, the number of immigrants in Ohio grew more than 33 percent, with more than 460,000 foreign-born residents calling the state home.
- Minnesota’s immigrant population grew by more than 50 percent over the last decade.
- More than 27 percent—over 10 million people—of California’s population are foreign-born.
- Oklahoma’s foreign-born population increased more than 61 percent between 2000 and 2013, placing it among the top 10 fastest growing in the country.
- During the same time period, Georgia’s immigrant population grew by more than 60 percent, or about 950,000 people.
- Foreign-born residents in the state of Washington increased by almost 30 percent from 2000 to 2013. About 890,000 people, or 13.1 percent of the state’s population, were born abroad.
Yes, immigrants are a large and valuable slice of America—just as they have been for hundreds of years. For businesses, schools, hospitals, governments and other institutions, foreign-born residents represent a growing customer base as well as a communication challenge. Professional translation and interpreting services can bridge these potential communication gaps and help create long and successful relationships with new clients, colleagues and customers.
For advice or assistance in expanding your translation and interpreting efforts for foreign-language clients, give us a call. We’re here to help.
Sources: American Community Survey; The Atlantic – July 21, 2015 article; Migration Policy Institute; Partnership for a New American Economy; U.S. Census Bureau; Welcoming America.