This article demonstrates why research on immigrant language barriers should account for local variations in the way these barriers are experienced by different immigrant groups. It makes the argument that variations in language barriers experienced by immigrant groups are often reflective of differences in the local migration histories and socio-economic status of these groups. These themes are illustrated by discussing the findings of a comparative survey of welfare service barriers experienced by Haitian and Hispanic welfare clients in Miami-Dade county. Secondary data on South Florida migration patterns is also used to explain disparities in the bilingual fluency of welfare caseworkers, which had a significant impact on the service barriers experienced by both groups.