10 Best Cities in the U.S. for Immigrants

By May 15, 2020 April 12th, 2023 uLink Blog
City skyline on a beautiful sunny day with clear skies

Five major territories. Fifty states. Thousands of cities. When it comes to choosing where to live in the U.S., it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. With endless options at your disposal, it’s best to start the decision-making process by answering the most essential questions: 

  • Which U.S. cities are the most immigrant-friendly? 
  • What cities can help you provide the best opportunities for you and your family? 
  • Where will you feel most at home?

The New American Economy, a bipartisan research organization that advocates for smart immigration policies, can help you confidently identify the top-ranked American cities. 

Founded by the nation’s leading economic advocates (including Michael Bloomberg and Rupert Murdoch), the New American Economy’s (NAE) research team strives to answer one fundamental question: “Which city is the best at integrating immigrants into the fabric of American life?”  

Through an advanced algorithm containing 51 specific measures, the New American Economy provides an overall score based on two overarching factors:

  • Policy Score: Government Leadership, Economic Empowerment, Inclusivity, Community, Legal Support and more
  • Socioeconomic Score: Job Opportunities, Economic Prosperity, Livability (Housing, Healthcare, Education, etc.), Civic Participation and more 

The cities with the highest overall score lead the United States with policies that support immigrants while diminishing the socioeconomic gaps between U.S.-born and immigrant residents. 

In November 2019, the NAE Cities Index released its latest findings and identified the top 10 American cities for immigrants. Here’s what they found:

10) Portland, OR

With a dramatic increase in immigrant-friendly policy, Portland earns high marks among cities offering greater inclusivity, community, and government leadership. Though civic participation, quality of life, and cost of living are ranked high, the city remains actively engaged in boosting job opportunities for immigrant families in 2020 and beyond.

9) Anaheim, CA

The home of Disneyland, Anaheim receives recognition for its diligence in providing immigrants with equal access to job opportunities and sustained economic empowerment. In addition to offering a minimum wage of $11—substantially higher than the national average—Anaheim also works closely with many immigrant organizations and supports a range of community groups. 

8) Newark, NJ

Leading the nation’s top cities in available job opportunities, Newark’s immigrant population is highly active in the local workforce. Newark residents also value the city’s dedicated focus on promoting inclusivity, community engagement, and hands-on legal support. While still remaining close to New York City for countless career opportunities, Newark prides itself on being an escape from the Big Apple. 

7) San Jose, CA

Widely regarded as a highly livable city, San Jose offers immigrants a spectrum of advanced housing, healthcare, and education opportunities. In addition to receiving high marks for inclusivity and legal protections, the NAE Index also highlighted the city’s focus on providing sustained economic empowerment for immigrants. 

6) New York, NY

Long considered the gateway to America and the capital of the world, New York City proudly provides some of the most immigrant-friendly policies in the United States. With a 35% foreign-born population, New York City mitigates its high cost of living by delivering immigrants top legal support, language access policies, community engagement, and job opportunities. 

5) Baltimore, MD

Over the last ten years, “Charm City” has worked to increase the city’s population and invest in small business development for immigrants. Baltimore’s mission to enhance its appeal has since paid off and now boasts top grades for immigrant economic prosperity along with growing housing opportunities and community engagement. 

4) San Francisco, CA

Despite its notoriously high cost of living (62.6% higher than the national average), San Francisco still ranks #4 on the NEA’s Cities Index thanks to its nation-leading policy support for immigrants. While actively engaging and defending all immigrants, San Francisco offers a vibrant community with a range of employment opportunities and growing economic prosperity. In addition to its leading high school graduation rate, San Francisco also features a more affordable public transportation system than New York and Chicago.

3) Jersey City, NJ

Just a stone’s throw away from Manhattan, Jersey City lands in the Top 3 of the NAE Cities Index. While providing a high level of immigrant policy support that rivals NYC, Jersey City offers a dramatically more livable environment with more accessible housing, healthcare, and education opportunities.

2) Chula Vista, CA 

Ranking second on the NAE Cities Index, Chula Vista earns high marks for inclusivity, community, economic empowerment and a burgeoning range of job opportunities. Beyond its commitment to fair and smart policy, Chula Vista proudly offers a high quality of life for individuals and families. 

1) Chicago, IL

Regarded as the most immigrant friendly city in the United States, Chicago ranks #1 on the NAE Cities Index. With a perfect policy score and the highest marks for immigrant inclusivity, job opportunities, legal support and livability, Chicago leads the nation in nearly every category. The Windy City is regarded as the friendliest of America’s major cities and welcomes immigrants with immediate access to citizenship information, health care, legal assistance and more.

Though Chicago has drawn the most recent acclaim, other Midwestern cities have also demonstrated a growing interest in being regarded as the best place for immigrants to live in the U.S. To name a few, Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Toledo all saw dramatic increases in their scores from the previous year and are expected to rank even higher in the NEA’s next index report.  

Getting Started

Want to learn more? Check out the NAE’s “Compare Your City” tool to get a side-by-side statistical breakdown of the nation’s 100 largest cities. 

Wherever you settle in the United States, uLink helps you stay connected with family back home through great exchange rates and fees starting at $0.

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