Part of the Diversity and Inclusion Blog Post Series
Just like other immigrant populations, black immigrants are part of the history and development of the United States, with major contributions in areas like the arts, science, sports, food, entertainment, and many more. In the drive for immigration reform, black immigrants must not be forgotten or left out of the equation. Black immigrants, brought involuntarily or coming of their own volition, are the source of black history in the United States.
According to the U.S. Census, there are around 4.2 million black immigrants in the United States, and of that number around 600,000 are undocumented and 49% of the foreign-born black immigrant population is from the Caribbean. Black Demographics outlines the top cities for black immigrants: Atlanta, Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Charlotte and Washington DC. Many of these immigrants and their children or grandchildren — people like President Barack Obama, Senator Kamala Harris, General Colin Powell and Representative Mia Love — have become great American public servants.
Due to the over-policing of black neighborhoods, black immigrants are more likely to encounter law enforcement. According to data released by ICE, the number of deported undocumented immigrants from African countries increased significantly between 2016 and 2017. In fact, deportations for the top 10 African countries on ICE’s removals list jumped by 140 percent — from 756 in 2016 to 1,815 in 2017. The three countries that experienced the greatest spikes were Senegal (from 21 to 197), Gambia (from 2 to 56), and Guinea (from 16 to 88). These statistics are concerning in two regards: the first being that the proportion of black immigrants in the United States is much less than other racial/ethnic groups and second that this drastic percentage increase is not reflected in those other groups. The disproportionate rate of deportation, and the injustice embodied in it, should be of concern to everyone.
The rise in black immigrant deportation, the cessation of temporary protective status for Haitians as well as other humanitarian programs for African nations, and the proposed termination and reallocation of visas from the diversity program are all threats to black migration to the United States. Black immigrants are under-represented in every visa category except for the diversity visa, where there has been a large allocation for professionals from African countries. When considering ending the diversity visa program, policy makers must look at how to ensure that a new approach does not further disadvantage black immigrants.
As the United States looks to modernize its immigration process, whether it be toward a merit-based point system or some form of lottery, it must ensure that a system supports, and is supported by, our nation’s values and aspirations.
Looking to learn more? The Black Alliance for Just Immigration is one of the leading organizations focusing on black immigration. Over the years they have published three important reports 1) The State of Black Immigrants in California, 2) The State of Black Immigrants and 3) Black Lives at the Border, all of which are available for download from their website. These reports focus on the unique intersection of race and nationality.