About the Immigrant & Refugee Program
Portland is home to one of the largest immigrant and refugee populations in Oregon. According to research conducted by the New American Economy, 13.5% of the city’s population are immigrants, compared to nearly 10% statewide.
Immigrants and refugees are important contributors to our city’s economy, culture, and community and play an important role as job creators, making up 32.9% of business owners in the hospitality industry, Portland’s restaurant, bar, and hotel scene. At the same time, immigrant workers serve in essential industries and carry out vital roles that keep Portland functioning. Immigrants comprise more than 21.1 percent of all Restaurant and Food Service workers and 20.1 percent of all Transportation and Warehouse workers in Portland.
Although these communities contribute immensely to our culture and economy, they continue to face barriers and inequitable access to our city's services. The Immigrant and Refugee Program works to strengthen our partnerships with the immigrant and refugee communities because we believe all Portlanders should have a seat at the table and have equal access to our City’s services. The program activities include:
- Bridging relationships: The Immigrant & Refugee Program's New Portlanders Policy Commission works with the City to make sure its policies and programming are inclusive and reflect the needs of Portland's immigrant and refugee communities.
- Advocating for policies: Our program collaborates with communities, elected officials, and bureaus to advocate for city, state, and federal policies and resources that advance immigrant and refugee rights and support immigrant integration.
- Serving as a resource: Our program staff works with city council, city bureaus, and community partnersto build effective programs, policies, and services for Portland's immigrant and refugee communities.
Immigrant & Refugee Portland Demographics
The City of Portland was one of 12 local governments and nonprofits selected by the New American Economy to receive tailored research highlighting the demographics of our local immigrant communities and challenges that are specific to each community. The research highlights how immigrants are both essential to Portland’s rapid COVID-19 response efforts and especially vulnerable due to gaps in our federal relief package, barriers in language access, and increased risks of infection associated with frontline and essential work.
Key findings from the include:
- Immigrants serve in essential industries and carry out vital roles that keep Portland, and the country, functioning but put them at higher risk of infection. Despite making up just 13.5 percent of the city’s residents in 2018, immigrants comprise more than 21.1 percent of all Restaurant and Food Service workers and 20.1 percent of all Transportation and Warehouse workers in Portland.
- Immigrants play an important role in Portland as job creators but face significant economic challenges stemming from the economic shutdown. Immigrants make up 32.9 percent of business owners in Hospitality, 20.9 percent of business owners in General Services and 16.4 percent of business owners in Healthcare.
- Culturally sensitive and language accessible emergency materials are in demand. In 2018, over 28 percent of immigrants, or 24,510, living in Portland had limited English language proficiency. Among them, the top five languages spoken at home other than English were: Spanish (32 percent), Vietnamese (21.3 percent), Chinese (13.7 percent), Russian (8.8 percent), and Ukrainian and related (3.3 percent).
- Access to healthcare and medical services remains critical for all Portland residents during this pandemic. In 2018, 44,101 Portland residents were without insurance, over 28 percent of which were immigrants.
While this report was initially intended to support strategic efforts for immigrant-inclusive emergency COVID-19 initiatives, the data presented in this report also offer a general snapshot of Portland immigrant community's demographic and economic characteristics. Download report below in 11 different languages:
Promote the Common Good: Civic Life is building stronger communities by supporting and empowering Portlanders. We think, act, and partner with our communities to better understand and take care of their diverse needs. We invite you to join us in this continuous, much needed work to make our communities safer and more welcoming for all.