Emerging populations can be those populations that have yet to achieve institutional power or recognition.
While Latino migration to the Deep South was scarcely noticeable in the 1980s, it increased significantly during the 1990s. NAFTA (1994 North American Free Trade Agreement) and the 1990s economic boom brought Latino immigrants to the deep Southern states to work low-paid, low-benefit or no-benefit jobs. The Southern economy has been restructured to feature car plants in Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina and food processing for pigs, chicken and seafood all over the rural South. Foreign-born workers came to work in the rural parts of Northern Alabama in hosiery, carpet, garment, textiles, furniture, and plastics manufacturing and produce picking. Chicken farming and poultry processing has become especially concentrated in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Population growth created an increase in the service economy in cities like Memphis, as in many other Southern urban centers, where migrants also work in construction and manufacturing. South Carolina’s Latino Population grew by 148% between 2000 and 2010. The Deep South received Mexican and Central American post-Katrina workers, in addition to minorities from within the U.S. The most significant group of laborers were Latino, followed by Southeast Asian groups. By 2007, the populations of Latinos and Asian immigrant groups in New Orleans had grown from 4.5% to 1.3%.
The latest 2010 U.S. Census data reveals a steady growth momentum in the Hispanic/Latino population across the United States. The census data show that Hispanics are the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group. The latest state-by-state U.S. Census figures continue to show the incredible double-digit growth the Hispanic population is fueling in states across our country (see table below). In the South, this growth is framed by a health care system unprepared for an influx of people with different cultural values, language use and understandings of disease, health and medical care. Due to a high proportion of the population having undocumented status, the actual number of Latino populations may be much higher than reported. For example, while the 2010 Census reported 13,000 Latinos in Charleston, South Carolina, the actual number may actually be 50,000.
Even within Hispanic communities, differences emerge across immigration, ethnicity, sexuality and socio-economics. In New Mexico – a state that is 50% Hispanic, for instance, the Latino Advisory Group of the state Health Department HIV Program identifies Latino gay and bisexual men as an emerging population. Similarly, Latinos en Acción based in Fort Lauderdale – a coalition of service providers, community members and the health department – consider Latino gay and bisexual men a considerable emerging population on whom to focus their efforts.
Acknowledging these differences and how they may impact service accessibility is a key component to the work of Latinos in the Deep South Program. One common barrier is recruitment of community members into clinical and prevention services. Another is the implementation of culturally and linguistically appropriate services when funding may not support it yet.