NJ immigrants deal with stigma, traffic and — of course — high taxes
For many reasons, whether it’s the economic opportunities, religious freedom or perhaps a reunification with other family members, most immigrants cherish the opportunity to live in the Garden State.
But sometimes they struggle with problems and obstacles.
Some immigrants admit they miss their native countries, some can’t shake the feeling of being an “outsider”, while others complain of not being able to get access to various programs and services for themselves and their families.
Johanna Calle, who came from Ecuador with her family as a child, has embraced life in New Jersey. But she says the culture, language and even the food of her birth nation is still a big part of her.
“In college I would have a stressful week and I was craving Ecuadorian food because that was like my home food. When you think of home-cooked meals, that’s what it was for me, and it still is.”
Calle, who now serves as the program coordinator for the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, says while immigrants enjoy numerous benefits in the Garden State, they’re also frequently forced to deal with the misconceptions others have of them.
“A lot of people assume that all Latinos are undocumented, or are immigrants, and it’s not 100 percent the case. Many folks have [families who have] been here for generations,” she said.
“And I think the other side of that coin is you assume that someone is not Latino, then they are automatically not undocumented, they must have come in some other legal way. But you actually have a really large undocumented Indian population in the state of New Jersey. You have a large Korean population in Bergen County.”
Scroll to the end of this article to see our New Jersey map of where our immigrants come from.
“I think we have this very monolithic view of what immigrant communities look like because of the national conversation, but it actually doesn’t jive with the reality of New Jersey. There’s a big misconception as to who really is an immigrant and who really is documented or undocumented, who’s really a citizen.”
Jersey City resident Raju Patel loves living in the Garden State, but he does have one big complaint.
“It’s taxes," he says with a laugh. "Property taxes and all is too much."
Patel continues to hold onto traditions he was brought up with in India, but he’s added some new ones as well.
“The new traditions and holidays that in my home are accepted, that is Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Christmas — all good days, you know. You eat good, you have a good time.”
Kamal Khanna, who came from India more than 50 years ago, said he enjoys the fast pace of life in New Jersey, but sometimes living in the most densely populated state in the nation can be challenging.
“I think if I was to say if there’s one thing that might turn me off once in a while it’s the congestion, the traffic. There’s very little attention sometimes paid to the bottlenecks. Other than that, I have no complaints about New Jersey.”
Mapping NJ's immigrants
Zoom in and click on a town to see the geographic breakdown of where its immigrants come from as well as that town's top immigrant nationality. The towns are color-coded based on the region of the world where most of the immigrants come from: Yellow for Latin America, green for Asia, blue for Europe and red for Africa. In some cases, the top nationality differs from the top region.
Best viewed on a desktop computer.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com