Nearly one of every seven Illinois residents is an immigrant, according to Illinois’ Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights. In Illinois, 25.8 percent of immigrants come from Asia.
The United States is home to about 1.6 million Chinese immigrants (including those born in Hong Kong), making them the fourth-largest immigrant group in the United States after Mexican, Filipino, and Indian immigrants, according to Migration Information Source.
“Lured by the gold rush and job opportunities abroad in the face of economic crisis in southern China, male Cantonese laborers began migrating to California in the early 1850s,” states the Encyclopedia of Chicago.
Statewide, the number of Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants increased from 56,000 in 2000 to 69,700 in 2009, a jump of 24 percent.
A major source of that growth has been China’s booming economy, enabling more Chinese people to migrate, said Z.J. Tong, president of the Chicago Chinese Cultural Institute, which seeks to promote Chinese language and culture in the city, according to The Chicago Reporter.
During a courtesy call with Mayor Rahm Emanuel last month, Chicago’s new Chinese Consul General Zhao Weiping addressed the importance attached to a municipal government and the development of friendly relations with China.
“China has a strong interest in expanding exchanges and cooperation in extensive areas with Chicago,” Zhao explained, “which is a leading city in America in the fields of economy, finance, culture, education as well as science and technology.”
Emanuel responded with saying he would continue to promote Chicago as the gateway to America for Chinese investment. He also hoped to further strengthen people-to-people contacts and welcome more Chinese students and tourists to Chicago.
Chicago’s Chinatown, centering on Cermak Rd. and Wentworth Ave., was established in 1905. Since that point, many Chinese immigrants have moved into the area.
In 2000, there were 68,021 Chinese people living in the neighborhood. Chinatown is bounded by 18th Street on the north, 23rd Street on the south, State Street on the east and the Chicago River on the west, according to Chicago Traveler.