Middle East meets Middle West

The news: Since January, pro-democracy protests have swept across the Middle East and North Africa, captivating the world’s attention. Behind the news: During the past decade, the number of immigrants from “Near East” countries in Illinois climbed 18 percent, from 35,700 to 42,200, but it decreased slightly in Chicago from 12,700 to 12,160. Of 19 countries around the Mediterranean Sea that are considered Near East by the U.S. Department of State, census data captured a sizable population of foreign-borns only from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in 2000 and 2009. Iraqis, the largest group of Near Eastern immigrants in Illinois, saw an extensive shift in their population between 2000 and 2009. Their number fell by 40 percent, from 5,100 to 3,000, in Chicago but increased by 7 percent to 10,300 statewide.

More Chinese people coming to Chicago

The news: In January, Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Chicago, his only stop outside the nation’s capital. Behind the news: During the past decade, the number of Chinese and Taiwanese immigrants saw an increase in Chicago. The number climbed 14 percent from 24,000 in 2000 to 27,450 in 2009, shows a Chicago Reporter analysis of census data. 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.