In spring 2006, six months after an estimated 150,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees arrived in the Houston area, a survey showed increasing local anxiety about the impact of illegal immigrants on crime and public services.

Worries about strangers in their midst — whether from another country or a neighboring state — became intertwined in the minds of many Harris County residents, according to a new analysis of data from the annual Houston Area Survey.

“Although the evacuees comprised one of the largest forced internal migrations in U.S. history, many residents did not distinguish them from the continual streams of non-U.S. citizens seeking to re-establish their lives in the local area,” authors Jason Shelton and M. Nicole Sherman write in an article scheduled for September publication in the journal Social Science Quarterly.

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