The 2010 US Census data reveals an increasingly diverse demographic landscape in America, with Asians as the fastest growing racial-group in the past decade, we recently reported. People from the ten ASEAN nations contribute significantly to the Asian population in America according to the American Community Survey, a new nationwide survey by the US Census Bureau that tracks specific data including languages spoken at home and country of origin on American communities. According to ACS, 35% of America’s foreign-born Asian population, or 3.5 million, was from ASEAN countries.
Although each of the ten ASEAN nations is represented in America’s ethnic mélange, the largest Southeast Asian community comes from the Philippines, highlighting the long-standing presence of Filipinos in the US. The first recorded Asian-American settlers goes back to 1763 of the Louisiana “Manila Men”—a community of Filipino sailors who escaped serving the Spanish Manila-Acapulco trade route and settled in the bayou. After the 1.6 million Fillipinos in America, the next largest populations hail from Vietnam and Thailand.
The Southeast Asian population in the US is settled across the country with the largest numbers found in California, Texas, and New York. Reflecting the diversity of the ASEAN region itself, southern California serves as a prime example of the similarly varied Southeast Asian community in the US. Los Angeles is reported to be home to both the largest Thai community outside of Thailand, as well as the most Dutch Indos (Indonesians of Dutch decent), with over 100,000 each.
Southeast Asians are contributing to the growth of the US population. According to the 2010 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, last year 216,350 Southeast Asians obtained permanent residency or became naturalized citizens, 27% of all Asian immigrants to do so. While the majority of them were living in states with large populations from ASEAN, new citizens from the region are settling throughout the US. In and around Fort Wayne, Indiana, for instance, the Asian population has doubled since 2000, with refugees from Burma/Myanmar making up a significant portion. While it might take some time for the newcomers to become fully acclimated to their new communities, for some, such as Ahi Si Mar who arrived with her family in 2007 after ten years in a Burmese refugee camp, America feels like home already.