Idaho's Hispanic population booming, now largest minority group

POSTED: 06:17 PM MDT May 01, 2013    UPDATED: 03:35 PM MDT May 02, 2013 
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -

Latinos in the U.S. have reached 52 million with an increase in nearly every state, especially Idaho.

Census data shows the Hispanic population here has grown more than 70 percent in the last decade.

The Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs said every Idaho county had an increase in its Hispanic population, making it the largest minority group.

Immigration attorney, Randy Neal, says it's no surprise Idaho's Hispanic population is booming.
 
"Now, the reality has hit home," said Neal.

Neal says after the Reagan Amnesty Program, the country saw an immigration increase with some residual effects.

"Generationally, that's going to have an effect," said Neal. "Children are born here, they're legal, they're citizens, all of that increases the population."

U.S. Census data shows from 2000 to 2010, the state's non-Hispanic population grew 17 percent. During that same time, the number of Hispanics in Idaho increased 73 percent.

Joe Olivas is a Mexican-American who recently moved to Idaho. He said family and employment drew him to the Gem State.

"It's a nice town, I love the city that I live in," said Olivas. "It's a close-knit community, and I love the City of Iona."

Idaho has around 176,000 Hispanics, and 45 percent are younger than 19.

But they're not just strong in numbers, Neal said they're a strong political force as well.

"The Democrats certainly are becoming emboldened. The Republicans are also courting that vote now and changing their attitudes," said Neal. "Both parties now are reacting to the fact that Hispanics are voting, and there is a Hispanic vote."

Neal said agriculture jobs are the big draw, then the service industry and manufacturing.

Census data shows whites will lose their majority by 2043.

To view the commission's full report, visit http://www.icha.idaho.gov/docs/HPDB_report.pdf.