Maybe what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens everywhere else makes waves all over. One place where that is clearly visible...

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Maybe what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens everywhere else makes waves all over.

One place where that is clearly visible is Tukwila, which is being reshaped by wars in Africa, poverty in Latin America, social disruption in Eastern Europe and housing prices in Seattle. I knew people from Seattle were moving there. In conversations over the past few years, a name would come up and someone would say, oh she moved to Tukwila.

I couldn’t imagine where all those people would live.

People moved to Kent and Federal Way, too. That made sense. But to me, Tukwila has always been Southcenter and the commercial sprawl around it. Tukwila’s city administrator, Rhonda Berry, told me people often think the city was born with the mall in 1968, or in the 1990s with Federal Way, SeaTac and Burien. But it was actually incorporated in 1908.

Just under 18,000 people live there, but nearly 42,000 work in the city. During business hours, the place swells with 50,000 to 100,000 shoppers.

“Most of the people who live here don’t work here, and most of the people who work here don’t live here,” Berry said.

Tukwila was even smaller, around 4,000 residents, when it started annexing outlying areas almost 20 years ago.

It’s not so easy to overlook anymore.

Annexation was one growth engine. Events elsewhere were another.

I mentioned the migration from Seattle. Black people have been part of that. They are now a larger percentage of Tukwila’s population than of Seattle’s, 13 percent versus 8.4 percent.

But immigration and turmoil around the globe are reshaping the city, too.

I stopped at the Tukwila Trading Company, where many people do their grocery shopping. The couple in line ahead of me were speaking Russian with the cashier. A Somali woman was in line at the next counter.

The largest group of immigrants is from Latin America. Tukwila is 13.6 percent Hispanic.

Sixty to 70 percent of the housing in Tukwila is rentals, making it affordable to new families.

Immigration makes an impact all over the county, but it stands out most in a small city. The school district classifies 29 percent of its students as English-language learners.

The influx is enriching and challenging. A third of Tukwila’s students were born outside the United States, and they speak 55 languages.

A city slide show begins with a photo of moss-covered trees on a carpet of fall leaves.

The caption underneath declares, “Tukwila: More Than a Mall.” The second slide is, well, the mall.

Tax money from the people who go to Tukwila to shop is helping the city absorb people who come to escape war and poverty.

It all comes together in Tukwila.

Jerry Large’s column appears Monday and Thursday. Reach him at 206-464-3346 or jlarge@seattletimes.com.