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The Political Invisibility Of African And Caribbean Immigrants

– Posted in: Immigrants In The United States

Once again, the big lie of anti-immigrant lobbies has been exposed.

Politically Invisible African And Caribbean Immigrants

Immigration reform is not a one-ethnicity issue, contrary to the claims of Donald Trump and his ideological cohorts.

Various studies over the past few years have shown the number of Black immigrants of African and Caribbean descent have doubled every decade since 1970.

Their totals may be small relative to the much larger figures of Latino immigrants. But their significance, as part of the overall reform movement, should not be minimized.

In other words, the need to fix the immigration system is not just a Hispanic issue.

African And Caribbean Immigrants: Marginalized, If Not Excluded

There are 3.5 million immigrants of African or Caribbean descent in the U.S.

However, these immigrants do not to come to mind for most Americans when they think about the issues central to the immigration reform debate.

Rather, since my early days as a San Diego immigration lawyer, the debate has been focused on a wave of Mexican and other Latin American immigrants invading the southwest borders of the United States. For many members of the public, this is their only snapshot of immigration in the U.S.

Their perspective is too narrow, as some Black leaders have pointed out, often to a closed-ear audience.

Will Reform Help Black Immigrants?
The Root, Janell Ross, July 17, 2013

“I probably wouldn’t go so far as to say that the immigrant of African descent has been invisible, and certainly wouldn’t say they’ve been excluded,” says Rep. Yvette Clark, a Democrat representing New York’s 9th District in Congress, an area that includes Brooklyn neighborhoods that are home to hundreds of thousands of African and Caribbean immigrants. “I would say that our interests have been somewhat marginalized.”

I disagree with with Clark. Like Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”, an individual marginalized and excluded based on race, culture, or ethnicity by a society is essentially invisible within political and social circles.

Nonetheless – whether viewed as marginalization, exclusion, or invisibility – the increasing number of Black immigrants should not be trivialized by those who administer our nation’s immigration laws.

Indeed, a quick look at the refugee flows entering European seem sufficient notice that the United States needs to become more pro-active in serving the needs of immigrants from African and Caribbean nations.

As explained in No Room For Segregation In The House Of Immigration Reform, although the number of legalized Black immigrants is growing, they remain detached from other immigrant communities as well as from many Black Americans.

According to some population estimates, Black immigrants in the United States constitute about 8% of the nation’s foreign-born population.

More than half are from the Caribbean, and a large number of the rest come from Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Here’s a recent view of the African immigrant population by the Pew Research Center:


In some of our nation’s major cities, like Miami and Boston, immigrants account for more than one-quarter of the Black population.

This means, of course, the family unity and green card needs of African and Caribbean immigrants are likewise increasing. Yet, xenophobic opponents of reform have turned a blind eye towards such issues.

Why Immigration Opponents Minimize Non-Latino Immigrants

By narrowing the ethnic scope of debate, anti-immigrant forces are able to turn the reform debate into a subtle xenophobic diatribe against Hispanic communities.

Whereas this political ploy takes the direct antagonistic public focus off cultural communities like African and Caribbean immigrants, it makes the plight for recognition of their unique needs worse off.

In addition, Black immigrants suffer from many of the same defects as other immigrant groups.

For instance, anti-family unity deportation and detention policies which keep low priority criminal offenders locked up without the right to bond, and separates families in which immigrants have deep ties to family, work, and school, affect Black immigrants like all other newcomers to this country.

As a family unity attorney, I can attest that delays in the processing of immigrant relative petitions and permanent residency documents adversely impact both African and Caribbean applicants.

Being publicly unrecognized does not guarantee immunity from the flaws of our immigration system.

In my view, the time is ripe for all African and Caribbean immigrants to be more outspoken on immigration issues – and equally important, included within an inclusive immigration reform movement.

Given the current state of immigration affairs, there is no longer any room . . . if there ever was . . . for delay in the building of a broader coalition.

Besides, in diversity we trust, right?

By , Immigration Law, Policy, And Politics