2011-10-03 06:36:57

Identification: Third-largest city in Texas, with an estimated population of slightly fewer than 1,300,000 people in 2009

Significance: Although usually perceived as a hub of Texas’s staple industries of oil and cattle, Dallas has long had a wide diversity of flourishing enterprises, including those in the computer and telecommunication industries. Indeed, the very diversity of the city’s thriving economy has attracted so many immigrants—especially from Mexico and Asia—that roughly one quarter of the city’s residents are immigrants.

Dallas is home to a large number of Hispanics, especially people of Mexican ancestry, because Texas shares a border with Mexico and was once part of that country. Dallasites of Mexican descent therefore include both recently arrived immigrants and members of families that have lived in Texas for hundreds of years. Approximately 36 percent of the population of Dallas is Hispanic. Although Hispanics live throughout the city, Oak Cliff, a large neighborhood in the southwestern sector of the city, comes close to being an ethnic enclave, as the vast majority of its residents are of Hispanic background. People of Asian descent constitute roughly 3 percent of the city’s population. Most of them stem from India, Pakistan, China, Korea, and Vietnam.

The vitality of both the Hispanic and Asian communities of Dallas is exemplified by the city’s large number of service businesses and cultural enterprises supported by the two groups. For example, the Greater Hispanic Chamber of Commerce integrates the activities of the large Hispanic business community in the Dallas area, where roughly 13 percent of all businesses are owned and operated by Hispanics. The Dallas Concilio of Hispanic Service Organizations is prominent in efforts pertaining to literacy and education, health care, and race relations. Likewise, there is an equally active Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce, which coordinates the efforts of the almost 5 percent of businesses in the city owned by Asians. Many Asian Dallasites are active in various arts. For example, Dallas is home to an annual Asian American Film Festival and to the much-admired Dallas Asian American Youth Orchestra.

Dallas serves to illustrate how issues having little to do with immigration can place a city at center stage when issues pertaining to immigrants are raised. Although long a large, populous, and active city, Dallas is probably most famous throughout the world for two things. First, it is infamous as the city in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963. Second, it is famous as the setting for one of the most popular television series in history, the prime-time soap opera, Dallas (1978- 1991). In popular thought, Dallas has become a crystallization of all things Texan, both exciting and unpleasant. Although Dallas does indeed have a large immigrant population, so do other large cities in Texas. Nevertheless, news reports both in print and on air often tend to draw on Dallas when providing specific details for stories dealing with immigration fromMexico, such as anti-immigration measures and debates on amnesty for illegal immigrants. This trend was most clearly demonstrated in August of 2006, when NBC’s Nightly News ran a story about how public hospitals were coping with large numbers of undocumented immigrants as patients. The network sent a reporter to Dallas to interview doctors at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where President Kennedy had died in 1963.

Thomas Du Bose

Further Reading

  • Fitzgerald, Ken. Dallas Then and Now. San Diego: Thunder Bay Press, 2001. 
  • Hill, Patricia Evridge. Dallas: The Making of a Modern City. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996. 
  • Rozek, Barbara. Come to Texas. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2003. 

See also: Asian immigrants; Chinese immigrants; Houston; Illegal immigration; Mexican immigrants; Texas.