Boston Suburb Reflects Broad Changes in US Immigration - NBC10 Boston
Immigration in America

Immigration in America

Full coverage of immigration issues in the U.S.

Boston Suburb Reflects Broad Changes in US Immigration

The demographic shifts are transforming the Boston area and helping fuel its economic boom, said Luc Schuster, director of Boston Indicators project

Find NBC Boston in your area

Channel 10 on most providers

Channel 15, 60 and 8 Over the Air



    Boston Suburb Reflects Broad Changes in US Immigration

    Guatemalan bakeries, Honduran restaurants and Salvadoran markets are joining an already ethnically diverse mix of businesses in downtown Chelsea, a tiny industrial city across the Mystic River from Boston.

    Among them is Catracho's, a modest Honduran eatery recently purchased by Johanna Mateo, who was born in New York and raised in Honduras until she was 12, when she joined her older sister in Chelsea.

    "I always wanted to reinvest in Chelsea," said Mateo, 27, who plans to expand to a vacant storefront next door. "I like the roots it's set within the Latin American community, and I want to keep it that way."

    Chelsea (population, 40,000) is a microcosm of broader changes sweeping the United States, as the number of Central American immigrants increases and the number of Mexican immigrants decreases. Mexico generated one of the largest immigration waves in U.S. history, starting in 1965 and lasting well into this century, until an improved Mexican economy and lower birthrates helped reverse the trend. Now, more immigrants are fleeing poverty and violence in Central America's Northern Triangle.

    Death Toll, Damages Climb From Typhoon Hagibis

    [NATL] Death Toll, Damages Climb From Typhoon Hagibis

    The death toll from Typhoon Hagibis climbed to 53 on Tuesday, days after it tore through Japan and left hundreds of thousands of homes wrecked, flooded or out of power. Hagibis caused more than 200 rivers to overflow when it hit the island nation on Saturday.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019)

    Mexicans are still the largest group in the U.S. illegally but are down to 5 million in 2017 from 7 million a decade earlier, while Central Americans rose by 400,000 to 1.9 million and Asians also grew, the Pew Research Center reported last month. Nationwide, Pew estimated 10.5 million people in the U.S. illegally, down from a peak of 12.2 million a decade earlier.

    The dynamic is playing out at the state level, said Jeffrey Passel, co-author of the report. Only five states saw statistically significant increases from 2007 to 2017, led by Massachusetts and followed by Maryland. Both are magnets for Central Americans. California, with its large numbers of Mexicans, and other immigrant-heavy states such as Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York have fewer people in the country illegally.

    The changes extend to immigrants regardless of legal status.

    In Massachusetts, 8% of immigrants are Central Americans, while less than 1% are Mexican, according to census data analyzed by the Migration Policy Institute. In Maryland, 24% of immigrants are Central American, compared with only 4% Mexican. Nationwide, 33% of immigrants are Central American and 25% are Mexican.

    The demographic shifts are transforming the Boston area and helping fuel its economic boom, said Luc Schuster, director of Boston Indicators project.

    As recently as 1990, most foreign-born residents in the area hailed from European nations. Today, China, the Dominican Republic and Brazil top the list, he said. No European country even cracks the top 10.

    Quadruple Murder Suspect Brings Body to Police Station

    [NATL] Quadruple Murder Suspect Brings Body to Police Station

    A Roseville, California, man is in custody after he turned himself in to police in connection to a quadruple homicide.  The body of one of his victims was in the car he drove to the police station in Mount Shasta, more than 200 miles away from the original Roseville crime scene.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019)

    Boston's urban ring cities have seen the most marked changes. Just two decades ago, Chelsea and its neighbors — Everett, Malden, Revere and Lynn — were all majority white. Now, they're among the region's most diverse communities, Schuster's study found.

    Chelsea is now more than 60% Latino. More than one-third of residents hail from Central America, mostly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

    The city had a growing Latino community of mostly Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cubans when her family arrived from Puerto Rico in the 1960s, recalls Gladys Vega, the longtime head of the Chelsea Collaborative, a community advocacy group. That started to change as the first wave of Central Americans came as refugees from civil wars in the 1980s and eventually became U.S. citizens.

    The devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 brought another wave of Central Americans, many of whom were granted Temporary Protected Status, a special authorization that President Donald Trump's administration is trying to phase out.

    The successive waves of Latino immigration helped the city pull back from near collapse, said Vega.

    After decades of financial mismanagement and corruption, Chelsea faced insolvency in the 1990s. Businesses along Broadway were boarded up. The school system was so bad it was turned over to Boston University, an unprecedented arrangement that lasted for two decades until 2008.

    Taco Bell Recalls 2.3 Million Pounds of Ground Beef

    [NATL] Taco Bell Recalls 2.3 Million Pounds of Ground Beef

    Taco Bell has voluntarily recalled 2.3 million pounds of seasoned ground beef that originated at Kenosha Beef International in Columbus, Ohio, because of possible contamination with metal shavings. The USDA says there have been no confirmed reports of any adverse reaction.

    (Published Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019)

    "Latino immigrants helped rebuild Chelsea when people didn't believe in Chelsea," Vega said. "They invested in little storefronts that have grown and become established. They bought homes and they took pride in them. The contributions of the community are all around."

    The transition hasn't been without challenges.

    Many of the new high school-age students from Central America are coming from rural areas where they might not have attended school beyond the fourth grade, meaning the district needs more teachers, tutors and social workers, said Superintendent Mary Bourque. The district of roughly 6,300 students is 86% Hispanic, with about 40% considered English language learners.

    "We've absolutely struggled," Bourque said. "But if we were appropriately funded in the state budget, addressing their needs would be far easier."

    Local nonprofits and police, meanwhile, have taken new approaches to adjust to the changed community.

    Roca, an organization that helps young adults with criminal records get jobs, launched an initiative three years ago focused on making sure Central American youths stay in school and away from gangs. Two years ago, Chelsea police were involved in a major takedown of some 60 MS-13 members by federal and local authorities that helped stem a rash of violence that included nine homicides.

    Police Officer Charged with Murder for Fort Worth Shooting

    [NATL] Police Officer Charged with Murder for Fort Worth Shooting

    Former Fort Worth police officer Aaron Dean was booked for the murder of 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson after shooting her early Saturday morning while performing a wellness check.

    (Published Monday, Oct. 14, 2019)

    Last summer, Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes joined Boston's police commissioner and others on a trip to El Salvador to build ties with Salvadoran law enforcement and understand how the gang communicates and recruits for its U.S. affiliates.

    At the same time, Kyes stresses that his officers — nearly 40% of whom are fluent in Spanish — respect Chelsea's long-standing sanctuary city policy, which prohibits the department from getting involved in immigration enforcement actions that don't concern public safety.

    "We're one big community, regardless of where we or our parents came from," he said.

    Back on Broadway, Mateo, the new owner at Catracho's, hopes that as Chelsea undergoes a building boom, Latino businesses and residents aren't pushed out.

    About a half a mile away, near her old high school, is a cluster of new luxury apartment complexes, hotels and other hallmarks of a rapidly developing region. The city's only Starbucks, a popular brewery and a gleaming new FBI office tower are nearby and, just across the city line in Everett is a new $2.6 billion hotel and casino complex.

    "For a long time, Latin American people were the only ones investing in Chelsea,'' Mateo said. "Will they still be here in five or 10 years? Can they afford it?

    Watch: Drone Footage Shows Hotel After Collapse

    [NATL] Watch: Drone Footage Shows Hotel After Collapse

    Drone footage taken in New Orleans shows the damage after the Hard Rock Hotel collapsed during construction on Saturday.

    (Published Monday, Oct. 14, 2019)

    "I believe our community can keep up with the change and be a part of it, if it's done well."

    Get the latest from NBC Boston anywhere, anytime:


    Download our FREE app for iPhone, iPad and Android. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and sign up for our e-mail newsletters.