Argentine immigrants

Significance: Reflecting significant Italian as well as Spanish influence, Argentines constitute a small immigration population of mostly easily assimilated professionals, scientists, artists, and craftsmen, mainly of European descent (British, French, German, Jewish, Italian, Polish), escaping political and economic trouble in Argentina.
Before the 1970’s, the U.S. government had classified Argentine immigrants within the larger category of “Other Hispanics.” Consequently, Argentine-focused statistics before that decade are absent. Anglo-Argentines in particular had fled dictator Juan Perón’s regime during the 1950’s, and during the 1960’s Argentine professionals (predominantly medical doctors and scientists) sought improved economic conditions, resulting in a “brain drain” to Australia, Canada, and the United States, with more women than men entering the United States. In 1970, there were 44,803 Argentine immigrants nationwide, with 20 percent living in the New York metropolitan area. These numbers soared during the mid- to late 1970’s because of political persecution during Argentina’s “dirty war”: Jorge Rafael Videla’s military junta snatched off the streets college students, protesters, trade unionists, and rights activists, who “disappeared” forever.

Profile of Argentine immigrants


Argentine immigrants

Immigrants who obtained legal permanent resident status in the United States.
Source: Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2008.

Immigration from Argentina, 1930-2008


Argentine immigrants

Source: Department of Homeland Security, Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2008. Figures include only immigrants who obtained legal permanent resident status.
The 1970’s political refugees were less educated and more diverse than the 1960’s immigrants, though more highly educated than the general Argentine population. The Argentine debt crisis of the 1980’s brought another wave of immigration. The 1990 U.S. Census shows the 1970 figure more than doubled over the intervening twenty years to 92,563 Argentines nationwide. There were 15,115 Argentine immigrants in Los Angeles. By comparison, there were only 15 in North Dakota and Montana combined. Argentine American business and scientific associations, tango dance clubs, and the Italian community made New York City so attractive that the 1990 U.S. Census reported 17,363 Argentine Americans residing there. These figures may be low because they exclude more than half the population of Argentine immigrants who fall into other categories, such as Anglo-Argentines, Korean Argentines, Japanese Argentines, Arab Argentines, and especially Italian Argentines. Figures may also be skewed because the “Hispanic” or “Latino” category does not accurately apply and because Argentines tend to assimilate quickly.
From 1995 to 1999, 9,086 Argentines entered the United States as permanent residents, and the 2000 U.S. Census recorded 100,000 Argentine Americans overall. In 2002, South Florida claimed more than 21,000 in Miami’s Little Buenos Aires alone. San Francisco claimed 6,000. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, poor employment opportunities, especially after the 2001-2002 economic collapse in Argentina; strong foreign-labor demands; and the possibility of entry under family reunification provisions created a new wave of Argentine immigrants. Between 2000 and 2004, 17,306 Argentines entered the United States as permanent residents, leading the U.S. Justice Department to tighten rules for temporary visas to discourage illegal residence.
Andrew F. Macdonald and Gina Macdonald

Further Reading
Marshall, Adriana. “Emigration of Argentines to the United States.” In When Borders Don’t Divide: Labor Migration and Refugee Movements in the Americas, edited by Patricia R. Pessar. New York: Center for Migration Studies, 1988.
Viladrich, Anahí. “From ‘Shrinks’ to ‘Urban Shamans’: Argentine Immigrants’ Therapeutic Eclecticism in New York City.” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 31, no. 3 (September, 2007): 307-328.
_______. “Tango Immigrants in New York City.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 34, no. 5 (October, 2005): 533-559.
See also: American Jewish Committee; “Brain drain”; California; Canada vs. United States as immigrant destinations; Economic opportunities; Florida; Green cards; Latin American immigrants; New York City; San Francisco.

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