Best Cities in America to Immigrate To

By Ben Hartwig
19 February, 2020

America is a nation built by immigrants.

As the immigration debate rages on, there is no denying that people who made the treacherous voyage centuries ago helped shape the country America is today. The USA is still the most popular destination in the world for legal and illegal immigrants.

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • Twenty-five percent of all American residents are either 1st or 2nd-generation immigrants.
  • Eight percent of all the country’s newborns have at least one parent who is an illegal immigrant.

However, political rhetoric and the paranoia of many US residents have fueled negative sentiment towards foreigners. While some Americans support the belief that immigrants help strengthen the economy, others do not. Opponents say that aliens are taking jobs meant for US citizens and draining taxpayer money with subsidized healthcare.

While the administration is cracking down on illegals and tightening the reins on the US immigration system, some cities refuse to follow suit and have embraced immigrants instead. This article ranks all the US cities that have opened their arms to immigrants, despite the government’s best efforts to stop it.

How Were the Top Cities for Immigrants Chosen?

Cities across the US have started implementing policies aimed at helping immigrants. These campaigns include programs to attract foreigners and restricting the cooperation between federal immigration authorities (ICE) and local police departments. To better get an idea of what makes up a proper city for immigrants, this list will be using ranking criteria compiled by the New York Immigration Coalition and TransferWise.

The list authors analyzed 50 cities with large populations and used a nine-point index to choose the top ten cities. These places are geographically diverse but share several universal policies that help immigrants. Programs include shielding immigrants from deportation and assisting integration in the community.

The index ranking criteria:

  1. Self-declaration as a “Sanctuary City.”
  2. Detainer policies in place, specifically a system in place that refuses to honor or limits ICE compliance.
  3. Office of Immigrant Affairs/New Americans.
  4. Access to municipal ID program.
  5. Affordable public transit.
  6. The average cost of living.
  7. Minimum wage.
  8. Universal preschool.
  9. High school graduation rates.

The Ten Best Cities for Immigrants

Here are the most immigration-friendly cities in the United States, where newcomers are choosing to settle based on the criteria above. These places are affordable and safe “sanctuary cities” that don’t play nice with ICE. What are “sanctuary cities,” and why are they essential to immigrants?

Sanctuary cities are cities where officials refuse to hand over illegal immigrants to ICE for deportation. Federal officials must rely on local PD to help them enforce federal immigration laws. However, the law does not require local law enforcement to detain illegal immigrants when federal officers make a request. Federal courts across the country have found that complying with such requests is not mandatory.

1. Milwaukee, Wisconsin


Milwaukee is an attractive destination for immigrants due to the city’s affordability. The average cost to live here falls well below the national average. Milwaukee offers a municipal ID program that provides residents and immigrants with photo identification access to city services. The city also has a policy that limits cooperation between the local PD and IC, refusing to honor the agency’s requests to detain immigrants suspected of illegal entry.

2.Los Angeles, California

The glitz and glamour of Los Angeles is the direct opposite of Milwaukee, including the high cost of living and inefficient public transit system. Despite all the negatives, California became a “sanctuary state” in 2017, and immigrants love LA, making up a whopping 38% of the city’s population. Los Angeles has a $12 per hour minimum wage working for it, which is way above the $8.15 national average. LA’s universal preschool program is also a hit with immigrants.

3.Boston, Massachusetts

Boston was once one the busiest ports of entry for foreigners and has always been a haven for immigrants as far back as the early 1900s. Today, Boston is a “sanctuary city” and remains a top destination for newcomers due to the city’s free public services. Beantown offers universal preschool, an $11 minimum wage, and affordable public transportation.

4.Seattle, Washington

Seattle is another city with a high population of immigrants. Almost one-fifth of the city’s residents were not born in the United States. Foreigners love Seattle because of the many useful services the local government provides. The citywide “Ready to Work” program helps immigrants build job readiness skills. The Department of Labor even touts the program as a “best practice model” that leverages workforce funding to support immigrant integration.

5.Baltimore, Maryland


Over the years, Baltimore has worked hard to become more attractive to immigrants. Ex-Mayor Stephanie Blake set a population increase goal of 10,000 families in ten years, and the program’s main focus was on immigrants. The city rolled out official government ID cards in 2016, which helped newcomers access city services and even bank accounts. Baltimore also has a policy where police and city officials can’t ask residents about their immigration status.

6.Washington, DC

The nation’s capital is another popular destination for immigrants. Newcomers make up more than one-seventh of the capital’s population, 40 percent of whom have since become naturalized citizens. While 20 percent of DC’s adult immigration population has less than a high school diploma, many strive for higher education. According to the American Immigration Council, three out of five immigrants in the city had a college degree or equivalent.

7.San Jose, California

Over the past several years, San Jose has been launching a series of programs designed to help immigrants, regardless of legal status. More than 180,000 immigrants call Santa Clara County home. Officials have pledged $1.5 million in legal aid for people facing deportation for non-violent crimes. San Jose officials also rolled out a communications campaign for immigrants to teach them about their rights. The program also helps families in creating “safety plans” and allows churches to provide sanctuary to immigrants during ICE operations.

8.New York, New York

New York is iconic for its role in welcoming immigrants to the United States. However, the Big Apple got low points on the index for its high average cost of living and expensive mass transport system. Despite all this, the city’s programs for newcomers allowed it to leapfrog several other towns on this list. New York has the country’s largest municipal ID program and offers extensive language access policies. The city also limits local law enforcement cooperation with federal immigration agencies.

9.Chicago, Illinois


Chicago has most of the same winning formula New York has, such as a comprehensive municipal ID program, universal preschool, high minimum wage, and sanctuary city policies. The Windy City has a slightly more affordable average cost of living compared to New York, but a lower high school graduation rate.

The city has launched a public-service campaign that welcomes immigrants to the city. The campaign also directs newcomers to resources like mental health care, citizenship information, and legal assistance. Chicago also implemented a “Welcoming City Ordinance” that restricts local police cooperation with ICE. Officers are prohibited from asking law-abiding citizens about their immigration status.

10.San Francisco, California

The best place for immigrants to live in the United States is San Francisco. The city got top scores in almost all the index criteria points, with the average cost of living and affordability being the only issue. The booming tech industry and the influx of startups are to blame for the city’s soaring property prices. According to data from the Council for Community and Economic Research, the average cost of living in San Francisco is 63 percent higher than the national average.

Despite the high cost of living, the city has an affordable public transit system and increased high school graduation rates. San Francisco has a robust municipal ID program and “sanctuary” policies maintained by the Office of Civic Engagement and Immigrant Affairs. The city used to restrict police cooperation with ICE, but the 2015 death of a resident at the hands of a Mexican national changed things up a little.


The immigration topic remains contradictory, and it may remain so for quite some time. However, it is only fair to admit that immigrants are one of the core pillars in the development of the United States as a country. Millions of immigrants flock to the USA each year, both legal and illegal, for a better future. Some get work permits and special visas, while others are not so lucky and get deported outright.

With the administration’s sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration, some groups of people are finding it difficult even to secure a regular tourist visa. Thankfully, many cities remain friendly to immigrants, making them feel safe and accepted.

The key takeaway here is that some cities have been steadily ramping up their efforts to attract immigrants, despite the administration’s stand on legal and illegal forms of immigration in the country. Several cities have been implementing policies friendly to immigrants, such as municipal ID programs and limiting local police departments from cooperating with ICE.

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