Dec 12, 2022 - News

Tampa Bay emerges as a hot spot for immigrants moving within the U.S.

Data: The George W. Bush Institute; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Tampa Bay is a hotspot for immigrants already in the U.S. who decide to move — but they may not be thriving here, according to a new study by the Bush Institute.

Why it matters: In recent decades, immigrants in the U.S. have increasingly chosen to live in smaller cities and more suburban areas — spreading demographic and social change across the country, Axios' Stef W. Kight reports.

  • Immigration to the U.S. is critical for population and economic growth — and will be more so as the U.S. population continues to age.
  • Metro areas "experiencing large inflows of foreign-born people are benefiting tremendously by attracting these people," said Cullum Clark, director of the economic growth initiative at the George W. Bush Institute-SMU.

Zoom in: Cape Coral-Fort Myers is estimated to have had the highest net inbound domestic migration rate of foreign-born people from 2010 to 2020 out of any of America's 100 largest metro areas, per the report.

  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, and Jacksonville were in the top 10.

Between the lines: Immigrants face a lot of barriers living in areas like Tampa Bay.

  • Rising housing costs — one of Tampa Bay's biggest issues— pose a bigger challenge for immigrants than native-born Americans. In Punta Gorda, 71% of immigrant renter households are burdened by housing costs, according to federal standards, the study notes.
  • Most of Florida's metro areas have middle-of-the-pack immigrant incomes but worse-than-average housing costs.

What they're saying: Jose Fernandez, director of immigration services for Catholic Charities in St. Petersburg, said many immigrants are coming to Tampa Bay because they already have friends and family here who can help them find work.

  • But when they get here, housing is the toughest challenge. Many immigrants move into crowded living situations or cannot find affordable housing, he said, noting that one of his clients pays $300 to rent a mattress to sleep on from a landlord.
  • Plus, undocumented immigrants have a tougher time providing for themselves and their families since they don't qualify for government support.

What we're watching: The study argues state and local governments should adopt policies that are more welcoming toward immigrants, like partnering with colleges and universities to promote pathways to transfer foreign training and credentials and quality refugee resettlement assistance.

  • It also calls on Congress to pass federal legislation that would expand pathways for foreign workers.

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