A major world city with a population of 3.8 million people in 2009, Los Angeles has the largest concentration of immigrants of any American city. An estimated 38 percent of its residents were born outside the United States, and they have come from more than 140 different countries, making Los Angeles one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world.
Founded in 1781 as a Spanish port city, Los Angeles became a Mexican city after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821. After the United States defeated Mexico in the Mexican War of 1846-1848, Los Angeles became an American city, but was slow to grow as most of the new state of California’s growth was concentrated in the north.
After a series of federal immigration laws began restricting immigration from Asia, the railroads recruited Mexicans to maintain rail lines in the Southwest and were consequently instrumental in drawing
As Los Angeles became industrialized during the 1930’s, its automobile, airplane, and other industries attracted numerous different immigrant groups. The rapidly expanding factories gave jobs to thousands of non-English-speaking immigrants and were influential in expanding the city’s borders.
The city’s immigration patterns underwent a major shift after 1960, as the numbers of European immigrants began to decline and non-European immigration began rising rapidly. In 1965, the U.S. Congress passed the
The years following 1970, also saw a large rise in immigration from Mexico and other Latin American countries, and Hispanics became the single largest category of foreign immigrants to Los Angeles. Due in part to the city’s nearness to the Mexican border, the Greater Los Angeles region became home to nearly 2 million Mexican immigrants–the single largest concentration of Mexican nationals within the United States.
As Mexicans continued to immigrate in large numbers to Los Angeles and other parts of California, they faced increasing scrutiny from anti-immigration activists. In March, 2006, Los Angeles was the site of the largest immigration rally in the country, as similar rallies took place across the country to protest proposed federal legislation designed to increase penalties for undocumented immigrants.
Abu-Lughod, Janet L. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles: America’s Global Cities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. Ochoa, Enrique C., and Gilda L. Ochoa, eds. Latino Los Angeles: Transformations, Communities, and Activism. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2005. Rieff, David. Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. Sawhney, Deepak Narang, ed. Unmasking L.A.: Third Worlds and the City. New York: Palgrave, 2002. Waldinger, Roger, and Mehdi Bozorgmehr, eds. Ethnic Los Angeles. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1996.
Born in East L.A.
Captive Thai workers
Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles