Iowa has a small but growing immigrant community, much of which emigrated from Mexico. Nearly 5% of Iowa’s population was born in another country, and over 4% of residents are native-born Americans who have at least one immigrant parent. While relatively few in number, immigrants help support Iowa’s economy and remain a critical component of the state. The largest ethnic groups in Iowa are Latinos, Africans, Bosnians and South East Asians.
A small but vibrant segment of the Iowa immigrant population includes immigrants from the Middle East. A large Lebanese population grew in the vicinity of Cedar Rapids brought by a wave of immigration from 1895 through 1945. The mosque in Cedar Rapids was the very first mosque built in the United States. This is the oldest mosque still in use and is known as “The Mother Mosque.” While Cedar Rapids maintained the largest Lebanese community, other Middle Eastern immigrants found homes in Sioux City, Des Moines, Fort Madison and Fort Dodge. The 2000 U.S. Census reported that Iowa is home to 4,365 people of Arab descent, including 1,200 in Cedar Rapids, 900 in Des Moines, 450 in Iowa City, 320 in Ames and 315 in the Quad Cities. The largest segments of the population are Lebanese, Syrian and Egyptian.
POBLO Missionary, Tim Bickel