St. Louis leads nation in growing immigrant population

(Credit: KMOV)

More families from outside the United States are settling in the St. Louis area.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau numbers, the area is seeing the largest percentage increase in immigrants compared to other major metropolitan areas around the country.

Federal data shows in 2014, 118,936 foreign-born people lived in the St. Louis area. In 2015, that jumped to 129,559, which is an increase of about 8.9 percent.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports the St. Louis Metropolitan area's total population is more than 2.8 million people. While St. Louis isn't necessarily home to the most immigrants, it is seeing the largest percentage increase.

The International Institute of St. Louis plays a pivotal role in welcoming immigrant families. According to its website, they work with immigrants and refugees from more than 75 countries. They often help them find housing, jobs, and offer English classes.

St. Louis has a long history of welcoming immigrants. According to the city government's website, majority today come from southeastern Asia, Haiti and the Caribbean, and Latin America. Others come from China and African nations to attend college and then stay in the area.

Historically, though, St. Louis has also welcomed people fleeing conflict. For example, about 70,000 Bosnians now call St. Louis home. Many of them arrived during the early 1990s, when civil war erupted in their homeland. Now St. Louis has the largest Bosnian community outside of Europe.

As another civil war is sending millions of families running, Syrian refugees make up a small percentage of the immigrant population in St. Louis.

The International Institute told News 4 it would help welcome 1,050 refugees this fiscal year, including 300 Syrians. These are mostly families with young children. Leaders said while there have been some negative comments about Syrian refugees in St. Louis, they've also heard from many people asking how they can help.

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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