Immigration waves in Washington Immigrants began arriving in the 1800s to work for railroads and steamship companies. The earliest were Europeans...
Immigrants began arriving in the 1800s to work for railroads and steamship companies. The earliest were Europeans from other parts of the U.S. — so-called old immigrants — and Asians, who today remain one of the largest immigrant populations in the state.
Asians: First to arrive in numbers were Chinese fleeing strife in Canton. By the 1870s, Chinese were recruited to build railroads, log and work in canneries. After Hawaii became a state, Japanese sugar-cane workers moved to the mainland. Others fled poor conditions in Japan. Like the Chinese, they picked produce, logged and built railroads. Filipinos came next, their status differing in that the Philippines was a U.S. colony.
Latinos: Mexicans arrived in small numbers in the 1860s, and by World War II they and Latino migrants formed Yakima’s farm work force. Hispanics are now the state’s largest minority.
Africans: Waves of immigrants also have come from Africa, with large numbers arriving as refugees from Sudan and from East African countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Eritrea.
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Sources: University of Washington; “The Pacific Northwest,” by Carlos A. Schwanters