What Happens When Migrants Arrive in America's Suburbs?

30 June, 2024

HERRIMAN, Utah—When the first migrants began arriving in this affluent suburb tucked in a valley flanked by snow-capped mountains, few took notice. Now, schools and apartment complexes are suddenly filled with newcomers, and Spanish has become a common language heard at the local Walmart.

With no shelters and no federal or state funding to rely on, Herriman officials struggled to respond to the arrivals, many of them from Venezuela. Residents, often drawing on a tradition of service in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tried to fill the void, operating an English-language learning center and a food pantry.

“It almost felt like it came out of nowhere,” said Lorin Palmer, Herriman’s mayor. “It’s been hard, but we’ve got a community that’s sure trying.”

Record waves of illegal border crossings in recent years have sent tens of thousands of migrants to urban centers including New York, Chicago and nearby Salt Lake City, straining their budgets and services. Arrivals are increasingly making their way to suburbs and small cities across the U.S. that are even less prepared to handle them, forcing communities to improvise responses and sometimes generating hostility. 

The number of people with new immigration cases—a proxy for migrant arrivals—has soared in some suburban counties ringing metro areas, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

A kite festival in Herriman was organized by the local Venezuelan community to help integrate new migrants.

In Denton County, Texas, outside Dallas, those with new cases ballooned 16-fold to 8,632 between 2020 and 2023. In Kane County, Ill., outside Chicago, their number jumped 17-fold to 3,496 over that period, while in Rutherford County, Tenn., outside Nashville, it increased 20-fold to 3,315.

Bradenton, Fla., a city of 57,000 people south of Tampa, has seen its foreign-born population rise sharply, according to census data. At an April meeting, Manatee County commissioners sought to assess the impact of unauthorized migrants on the community—hearing from a hospital executive who said such arrivals were taking a financial toll on his facility.

“What options do we have? Obviously we can’t deport people,” said Kevin Van Ostenbridge, one of the commissioners.

Hamilton, Ohio, a city of 63,000 people north of Cincinnati, has witnessed blowback to jumps in the migrant population. After police announced an aggravated-murder charge in April against a man who had entered the U.S. illegally numerous times, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones pointed to what he called a “border invasion.”

“We’re all border states, we’re all border counties,” he said.

Reposted from:

The Wall Street Journal