NYC’s Young Immigrants

“I consider myself a part of this country, not because of any legal identifiers but my personal ones. I have been embedded with this society,” said 22-year-old Korean immigrant Isaac Lee. “There is a spirit that I have tapped into.”

Lee is one of thousands of immigrants who make up 37% of New York City’s population, according to a New York City Department of City Planning study.

Lee moved to the United States when he was just seven years old. Even without citizenship he considers himself an American.

“I’ve lived most of my life here and assimilated,” he said. “The reality of my cultural influences, the underpinnings of my education, everything is very very much American.”

22-year-old Isaac Lee explains what it was like growing up as an immigrant in the U.S.
Even without citizenship, Lee considers himself an American.
Lee addresses misconceptions about immigrants.

Many immigrants, like Lee, came to the United States as children. The majority of immigrants in New York City are young, with over 63% of them being under the age of 44.

The city’s Bangladeshi immigrant population is especially young, according to an Asian American Federation study. “The Bangladeshi population in New York City was younger overall than the general population,” with a median age of 30.3 years.

The study found that over 90% of New York state’s Bangladeshi population lives in New York City. They have settled in immigrant neighborhoods like Jackson Heights, Parkchester, and Jamaica.

One 22-year-old Bangladeshi-American, who asked to remain anonymous, moved to Jamaica, Queens with her family in 2009. She said she feels she is treated differently because of her skin color.

Bangladeshi-American shares her perspective on being an immigrant in New York City.

She said there is no single definition of being an American. She said Americans can be of diverse backgrounds, have different skin colors, and speak different languages. New York City reflects this diversity, its citizens speaking over 200 languages.

New York City has not always been an immigrant haven. Its immigrant population was minimal until it began to increase after 1850, according to NYC Open Data.

Made using NYC Open Data: Historical Data Of Foreign-Born Population in New York City

The earliest immigrants were Western and Norther Europeans. After 1880, Eastern and Southern Europeans immigrated to New York as well.

Because of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, few Asian immigrants could come into the United States until the 1960s. Congress passed the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 which lifted a quota system, allowing the number of Asian immigrants in the United States to almost quadruple, according to the History Channel.

New York City currently stands as a leading supporter of immigrants as a sanctuary city. Mayor Bill de Blasio promised to allocate $16.4 million for immigrant legal services.

New York City has been home to countless immigrants throughout the years. How well do you know your New York City immigrant history? Test your knowledge with this quiz: