Venezuela, Brazil, India fuel growth of Utah's foreign-born population; numbers from Mexico dip

Venezuelans were the largest bloc of newcomers to Utah from 2012-2022, according to numbers released Tuesday. The photo shows a boy carrying a Venezuelan flag at a Feb. 22, 2014, demonstration in Salt Lake City.

Venezuelans were the largest bloc of newcomers to Utah from 2012-2022, according to numbers released Tuesday. The photo shows a boy carrying a Venezuelan flag at a Feb. 22, 2014, demonstration in Salt Lake City. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's foreign-born population jumped by 20.6% between 2012 and 2022, motored most notably by newcomers from South America and Asia.

Venezuela contributed the largest number of new residents from any single country, 7,119, followed by Brazil, 4,681, and India, 3,956, according to population estimates released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. Venezuela has seen an exodus of residents around the globe amid an ongoing socioeconomic and political crisis under the leadership of President Nicolás Maduro.

The numbers of those born in Mexico, by far the largest bloc of foreign-born residents in the state overall, dipped by 1,956 in the 10-year-span.

Nationwide, the foreign-born population "has grown considerably," according to a Census Bureau report on the changes. The 1970 figure totaled 9.6 million, 4.7% of the overall U.S. population that year, and now totals 46.2 million, 13.9% of the population, going by American Community Survey one-year estimates. While the numeric total has increased 381% in the 52-year span, the 13.9% foreign-born share of the population still lags behind the figures approaching 15% of the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the U.S. population was much smaller.

Utah is hardly a prime destination for those coming to the United States from abroad.

The 47,122 foreign newcomers to the state since 2012 identified in the five-year American Community Survey for the period ending in 2022 boosted the overall figure to 276,011, up 20.6% from 228,889 in 2012. The 276,011 total represents 8.4% of Utah's estimated 3.28 million residents for 2022. The 228,889 foreign-born population in 2012 represented 8.3% of Utah's population that year.

By contrast, the top U.S. destinations for the foreign-born population in the 10-year period were Florida, 929,978 newcomers; Texas, 888,841; and California, 338,148. At the same time, foreign-born people represented more than 20% of the overall populations in California, New Jersey, New York and Florida, according to Census Bureau estimates.

The release of the new figures comes amid heightened debate about the surge of immigrants trying to enter the United States illegally at the southern border with Mexico. The figures for foreign-born newcomers, however, reflect a range of people — naturalized U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, students from abroad, refugees, asylum-seekers and undocumented immigrants. At any rate, they offer a hint of the nature of the diversification of the population here.

Here are more highlights from the new numbers:

  • Salt Lake County, Utah's most populous, had the largest foreign-born bloc of residents as of 2022, 152,642 or 12.9% of the population. Here are the figures for other Utah counties: Utah County, 47,980 foreign-born residents, 7.2% of the total; Davis County, 19,163, 5.3%; Weber County, 16,539, 6.3%; Washington County, 10,425, 5.7%; Summit County, 3,874, 9.1%; and Tooele County, 2,717, 3.7%.
  • Though the foreign-born population from Mexico dipped by 1,956 between 2012 and 2022, the country still accounted for the largest chunk of people from abroad in Utah as of 2022 — 99,740, 36.1% of the 276,011 total.
  • Among the other countries with the largest blocs of people in Utah as of 2022 were Venezuela, 8,804; India, 8,294; Peru, 7,901; Brazil, 7,644; Vietnam, 7,211; El Salvador, 7,062; Philippines, 6,468; Guatemala, 5,902; and Colombia, 5,555.
  • Latin America as a whole, which encompasses Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, accounted for 58.4% of the foreign-born population in Utah as of 2022, or 161,287 people. The next largest bloc came from Asia, 58,120, followed by Europe, 26,426.
  • The home region for most of the newcomers in the 2012-2022 period was Latin America, accounting for 21,593 of the 47,122 total. Within Latin America, South America led the way, with 18,464 of the 21,593 from the continent. Within South America, Venezuela — which has seen a mass exodus of residents under Maduro — accounted for the largest bloc of people, 7,119. Next came Brazil, 4,681, and Colombia, 3,582.
  • Asia accounted for 17,053 of the foreign-born newcomers to Utah in the 2012-2022 period, with 3,956 coming from India, 3,402 from China and 2,180 from the Philippines.

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Tim Vandenack covers immigration, multicultural issues and Northern Utah for He worked several years for the Standard-Examiner in Ogden and has lived and reported in Mexico, Chile and along the U.S.-Mexico border.


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