With its policy of welcoming immigrants, Texas has contributed to creating the rich multicultural diversity of the United States. The various immigrant groups have not only maintained their own traditions but have blended them together in an artistic and cultural multiplicity.

Throughout most of its history, Texas has welcomed immigrants. During the Mexico;and Texas[Texas]brief period when Texas was under Mexican rule, between 1821 and 1836, the Empresario land grants in Texasempresario plan implemented contracts and granted land to individuals who brought groups of immigrants to the area. Immigrants came from both Europe and the United States until 1830 when the Mexican government prohibited further immigration from the United States.TexasTexas[cat]MEXICAN IMMIGRANTS;Texas[cat]STATES;Texas

During the 1830’s, the first German immigrants;TexasGerman settlers immigrated to Texas and established homes in the south central part of the future state. During the following decade, with which began when Texas was an independent republic, another wave of Germans arrived. These two groups were peasant farmers fleeing religious persecution and poverty. In 1848, a group of better educated and more affluent Germans arrived and contributed significantly to the establishment of towns. While Mexico was fighting the United States in the Mexican War of 1846-1848, a number of Irish immigrants;TexasIrish immigrants entered Texas with the U.S. Army and stayed. Some of the Irish became merchants and farmers; others worked in Coal industry;Texascoal mines.

The major immigration wave into Texas occurred after the Civil War (1861-1865). With a vast amount of cheap land and a sparse population, Texas offered an abundance of economic opportunities for farming, ranching, and employment. The state government, private companies, and individuals actively sought immigrants to populate the state. An extensive written campaign of pamphlets and letters encouraged immigrants from most European countries to come to Texas. A few Texans, mostly planters, even traveled to Europe to entice people to immigrate to the state. The major stipulation was that the new arrivals be hardworking and eager to prosper through their own efforts. In 1870, Texas created the Bureau of Immigration, TexasTexas Bureau of Immigration. The campaign for settlers came at a time when Europe was plagued by economic hardships, food shortages, and religious persecution. Consequently, substantial numbers of immigrants from many European countries heeded Texas’s invitation.

European Immigrants

From 1866 to 1880, a German immigrants;Texassteady flow of German immigrants, attracted by religious freedom and the availability of land, arrived in Texas. In 1866 alone, they bought more than 10,000 acres of land. Other European immigrants included Bohemians, Poles, Swedes, Norwegians, English, Irish, Scots, and Italians. Members of each of these groups tended to settle close together. The St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railroad set up a land immigration office and played an important role in helping immigrants set up homes in the state.

The first immigrantsPolish immigrants;Texasfrom Poland had actually begun arriving in Texas as early as 1854-1855. In 1870, a large number of them came to Texas due to escape the imposition of Prussian culture on their politically dismembered homeland. Many of these Poles had owned property in Poland and were relatively affluent. Those who lacked funds worked as sharecroppers, saved their earnings, and soon became landowners themselves. They founded new Texas towns and also helped to settle the state’s frontier regions. From 1880 to 1920, Italians immigrated to Texas. Many of them initially worked in the Coal industry;Texascoal mines of the Thurber area or as laborers for the New York, Texas and Mexican Railroad. As they prospered, many of them purchased land and became farmers, growing corn and cotton. Others opened businesses.

Significant European immigration continued into the twentieth century. After World War II ended in 1945, Germans began immigrating to Texas, and substantial German immigration continued into the 1980’s. By then, a considerable number of Polish immigrants;TexasPolish immigrants were coming to Texas, fleeing the policies of the Poland’s communist regime.

Asian Immigrants

By the end of the twentieth century, the majority of immigrants coming to Texas–as in other states–were no longer coming from Europe. While substantial immigration from Mexico continued, Asian immigrants;Texaslarge numbers of immigrants were beginning to come from Asia. The first Asians to arrive in Texas were Chinese immigrants;TexasChinese. During the mid-nineteenth century, many Chinese had immigrated to California to work in the gold mines. There they faced an ever-increasing resentment and prejudice that made their lives both unpleasant and dangerous. During the 1880’s, many Chinese workers were entering Texas to work as laborers on construction of the Chinese immigrants;railroad workersSouthern Pacific RailroadSouthern Pacific Railroad. After that railroad was completed, about 300 Chinese workers stayed in Chinatowns;El PasoEl Paso, Texas;Chinese immigrantsEl Paso, where they created a Chinatown enclave. There they opened laundries and restaurants, worked as house servants, and raised
and sold vegetables. As some of them prospered, they purchased property.

JapaneseJapanese immigrants;Texas immigrants have also made important contributions to Texas. During the early twentieth century, Japanese began immigrating to the state’s Rio Grande Valley, where they grew rice and prospered, as they doubled their crop yields in only three years. They also grew vegetables and Citrus industry;Texascitrus fruits. These immigrants were initially welcomed into the state and treated well, but the entry of the United States into World War II in 1941 inflamed anti-Japanese sentiment in Texas and throughout the United States. After the war ended in 1945, many of the Japanese settled in Texas’s cities, where they sought employment in business and the professions. By 1990, more than two-thirds of the Japanese living in the state resided in or near major cities, such as Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth. Among the cultural contributions of the Japanese to Texas are the Japanese gardens in most of the state’s major cities.

Between 1975 and 1990, many Vietnamese immigrants;TexasVietnamese immigrants came to Texas. The first to arrive were mostly well-educated individuals fleeing the communist government that took over South Vietnam when the Vietnam War ended in 1975. The larger groups of refugees who followed them Communism;VietnamCommunism;refugees fromhad mostly been farmers in Vietnam. Many of them became fishermen in Texas. By the 1980’s, most of Texas’s Vietnamese immigrants had become U.S. citizens. In 1981, Texas had the second-largest Vietnamese population in the United States.

Texas has also gained a large Asian Indian immigrants;Texascommunity of Asian Indians. They are well educated as a group, and most came with university degrees. During the early twenty-first century, about one-quarter of the state’s Asian Indians worked in the field of information technology. Many others were employed as physicians, engineers, and scientists or were business professionals.

Mexican Immigrants<index-term><primary>Mexican immigrants;Texas</primary></index-term>

Texas’s largest immigrant community is Hispanic, primarily Mexican. The state’s diverse Hispanic community includes families tracing their roots back to residents of Texas while it was still under Mexican rule, people who immigrated and became citizens after Texas became a state, and modern immigrants who have entered the United States illegally. During the early years of the twentieth century, many Mexicans immigrated to the United States to escape to the political unrest and economic disturbances of the Mexican Revolution. At that time, Mexicans were welcomed to come to the state to work on farms and ranches, in the mines, and on the railroads. Between 1910 and 1930, the immigrant Mexican population in Texas tripled.

During the early years of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, many Mexicans were deported back to Mexico. However, in 1942, the U.S. and Mexican governments set up the Bracero program;in Texas[Texas]bracero program, a cooperative guest-worker venture that sent Mexican workers into the United States on a temporary basis until 1964. In addition to the Mexicans brought in by the program, others also entered illegally. This situation resulted in Operation WetbackOperation Wetback in 1954 that deported many illegal immigrants back to Mexico. Mexicans have continued to immigrate to Texas seeking employment and a better standard of life for themselves and their families.

From 1970 to 1990, Texas experienced a growth in its foreign-born population that was four times greater than the national average. Both the Hispanic and the Asian populations more than doubled during the period. From 2000 to 2006, the number Illegal immigration;Texasof illegal immigrants in Texas increased at a faster rate than anywhere else in the United States.Texas

Further Reading

  • Brady, Marilyn Dell. The Asian Texans. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004. Useful source for the social and cultural contributions of Asian immigrants.
  • Gomez, Luis. Crossing the Rio Grande: An Immigrant’s Life in the 1880’s. Translated by Guadalupe Valdez. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2006. Excellent detailed account by a Mexican immigrant to Texas that offers insights into relationships between early immigrants and their American employers. Also provides a look at Mexican lifestyles in Texas.
  • Gutiérrez, David G. Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Good for understanding the effects of the continuous immigration from Mexico. Also examines U.S. government programs that encouraged the immigration of workers and discusses Mexican resistance to assimilation.
  • Konecny, Lawrence, and Clinton Machann, eds. Czech and English Immigrants to Texas in the 1870’s. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004. Excellent source for understanding the rhetoric used to bring immigrants to Texas and the lives of immigrants in Texas as well as the dangers they encountered in reaching Texas.
  • McKenzie, Phyllis. The Mexican Texans. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004. Good coverage of Mexican social and work environments in Texas and the contributions made by Mexicans.
  • Rozek, Barbara J. Come to Texas: Attracting Immigrants, 1865-1915. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2003. Excellent history of efforts of the Texas government and private companies and individuals to lure immigrants to Texas, emphasizing printed sources.
  • Tang, Irwin A., ed. Asian Texans: Our Histories and Our Lives. Austin, Tex.: It Works, 2008. Well-researched and detailed study of the history of Texas’s various Asian immigrants and the discrimination and exploitation they have encountered. Excellent for both hard facts and statistics and anecdotal personal stories.

Border fence

Bracero program


El Paso incident

Empresario land grants in Texas

Farm and migrant workers

German immigrants


Mexican immigrants

Operation Wetback

Texas Cart War