New York, Immigration 101

Article excerpt

THE SOURCE: "How Exceptional Is New York? Migration and Multiculturalism in the Empire City" by Nancy Foner, in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Nov. 2007.

To UNDERSTAND HOW NEW York differs from other cities in the way it deals with immigration, look no further than street parking. New York matter-of-factly bows to its infinite variety of ethnic groups by suspending alternate-side parking restrictions on no fewer than 34 legal and religious holidays, including the Hindu celebration of Diwali, the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Catholic feast of the Assumption, the Jewish holiday of Purim, and the Asian Lunar New Year.

A "particular New York way" of absorbing vast numbers of new immigrants has taken root in the city, writes Nancy Foner, a sociologist at Hunter College, in part because New Yorkers have had so much practice in accommodation.

For much of the 20th century, one in five New York residents was foreign born. That figure reached 41 percent in the 1910 census, a level it's again approaching, at 36 percent in the last census. Those New Yorkers who weren't born in a foreign country themselves are likely to have a relative who was, Foner writes.

As a magnet for immigrants, New York may be fortunate that its three million newcomers are not dominated by one group that can gang up on the others. The top three groups--Dominicans, Chinese, and Jamaicans--made up less than 30 percent of all foreign-born people in the five boroughs in 2000. …

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