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As Congress moves forward with immigration reform, we take a look at how this issue connects to culture, business and families in the Northwest.Our region is home to a unique blend of immigrants who work in all parts of our economy — from high-tech to agriculture. This population already has a deeply-rooted history here. And its ranks are expanding rapidly.Proposals for comprehensive immigration reform address border security, employment verification, guest-worker programs and pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the US.

Washington Ranks Sixth For New Foreign And Out-Of-State Residents

Flickr Photo/dvs
Nearly one-third of new transplants to Washington are in their 20s.

Roll out the welcome wagon: New census figures show Washington state continues to rank as a top destination for people who move from across the country or from abroad.

Moreover, the state’s magnetic pull seems to be growing stronger. For the decade ending in 2010, the state ranked as the ninth most popular state. Now, it’s jumped to sixth place, according to the latest migration estimates from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

According to2013 census estimates, 38,411 people migrated to Washington state. Internationally, Washington tends to pull mostly from Asia and Mexico. On the U.S. front, most newcomers in 2012 came from Texas, California and Oregon. There could be some overlap in those categories, since workers from Mexico often follow a migration pattern up the West Coast.

King County’s demographer, Chandler Felt, said he can’t speak for the whole state, but he’s been observing these same migration trends in the Puget Sound area. He suggests Washington’s increasing appeal could be tied to the area’s strong economic growth and unemployment well below the national rate.

Felt also notes that King County’s recent population growth is about half from immigration and half from new births.

Recent figures show that about one-third of new transplants to Washington are in their 20s – a peer group that’s easy to find at the University of Washington in Seattle. Out of six people KUOW interviewed on campus, only one was a Washington native.

Illinois native Mike Kittleson said he moved here to attend law school, after also considering California and Washington, D.C. “But I think I like the weather out here better, and it doesn’t have such an uptight atmosphere as D.C.,” Kittleson said. “I like the whole West Coast community.”

Wesley Choi, 27, said he came to Washington from Korea partly for the arts scene.

Ata Bhatti, an immigrant from Pakistan who was visiting the UW’s Burke Museum, said he moved to Seattle to work for Amazon. “Having a tech hub was important to me,” Bhatti said. “We have so many companies here.”

So, you may wonder, do these transplants to Washington tend to stay? Our snap poll at the UW certainly leans toward yes.

“I think I’m going to stay here, at least a few more years” said Kittleson.

“I can afford a home here, believe it or not,” said Bhatti. “So I think it’s a place for me to stay.”

However, if folks do decide to leave Washington, the census shows the sunnier states of California and Arizona as popular next stops.

Year started with KUOW: 2006