President Obama travels to Las Vegas, Nevada Tuesday for a event where the nation’s 11.2 million immigrants will be represented. The face of immigration in this country includes Hispanics, Asians and Blacks.
(L.-r.) Senators John McCain (R) of AZ, Robert Menendez (D) of NJ Charles Schumer (D) of NY, Richard Durbin (D) of IL, and Marco Rubio (R) of FL, attend a news conference on comprehensive immigration reform at the US Capitol in Washington on Monday. Gary Cameron/Reuters
On the Hill, a group of bi-partisan Senators have signed a statement of principle on Immigration Reform setting guideposts that would allow for legislation to be drafted by the end of March. The effort is expected to address pathways to citizenship and boarder security. Republicans are working with Democrats in efforts to gain some traction with Hispanic voters for the next election.
PJ Crowley, Former Assistant Secretary of State and now an adjunct professor at George Washington University says, “It is a necessary and long overdue step. It will help us better attract the world’s best and brightest. It helps our society get younger. And it will help our economy by restoring circularity across our southern border.”
A group of Civil Rights and Labor leaders joined together Monday to put pressure on Congress to pass Immigration Reform in 2013. The groups banned together believing there has never been such a “consensus” to pass Immigration Reform than now. They plan to show further solidarity on Immigration Reform in 2013 with a major rally in Washington, DC on April 20 of this year.
Ben Jealous, head of the NAACP was part of that group of leaders speaking in support of immigration reform affirming, “4 out of 5 black voters are in support of Immigration Reform.”
Jealous explains why the strong backing saying, “we in the black community understand what it is like to be mistreated and exploited and treated like second class people. And we understand the pain of migration and separation and families being torn apart by poverty. ”
As the NAACP supports Immigration Reform, there are efforts to paint a more accurate and complete picture of those coming from other countries to live in the United States. When the conversation about immigration arises, many do not think of the black immigrant population. There are large numbers from the African Diaspora and the Caribbean looking to make a home within the borders of this country.. According the statistics there are 3 million black immigrants in the United States with 400, 000 undocumented.
The Center for American Progress gives some key facts about what they call an often-overlooked group:
- Black immigrants are a significant group in the United States—more than 3 million people comprising 8 percent of the U.S. foreign-born population. More than half come from the Caribbean, with the rest mostly coming from Northern and sub-Saharan Africa. A small number also come from Europe and Canada. Black immigrants account for more than one-quarter of the black population in New York, Boston, and Miami.
- Black immigrants arrive in the United States through multiple pathways. Most black immigrants—especially those from the Caribbean—arrive as legal permanent residents based on their family ties. Refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, and Eritrea accounted for 30 percent of all black African immigrants in 2009, while around one-fifth of black African immigrants entered the United States through the diversity visa lottery program—which provides 55,000 visas each year to countries underrepresented in immigrant streams to the United States. Around 400,000 black immigrants in the United States are here without legal status.
- Black immigrants are one of the most-educated immigrant groups. Black immigrants have more college education and higher rates of degree attainment than any other immigrant group in the United States.
- Black immigrants face many challenges in the United States. Even with high levels of education, black immigrants tend to earn low wages compared to other similarly trained immigrant or native workers. In 2011 black immigrants had the highest unemployment rate—12.5 percent—of any foreign-born group in the United States. Proposed immigration reforms such as reductions in family-based admissions and elimination of the diversity visa lottery could affect the flow of black immigrants to the United States, cutting off all legal means of entry into the country.
- Despite the challenges they face, black immigrants are stepping up in support of immigration reform. Despite the risk of deportation by coming out as undocumented, several young black immigrants—such as Tolu Olubunmi, who was born in Nigeria and came to the United States at age 14—are fighting for passage of the DREAM Act. Haitian Americans in Miami also came out in large numbers last year to protest U.S. immigration policies that favor groups such as Cuban migrants—allowing, for example, any Cuban who makes it onto American soil to stay—but discriminate against Haitians seeking asylum in the United States.
Like all immigrants in the United States, black immigrants come to this country to chase their dreams and to provide their families with a better life. Despite facing linguistic barriers, stereotypes, and misconceptions, black immigrants have developed social networks and small-scale entrepreneurship that have helped them successfully integrate into the United States. While their voices have been absent from much of the immigration debate, black immigrants know how important their voices are—as the example of young black DREAMers illustrates—and they are beginning to use those voices in support of immigration reform.
For the first time this year, SEIU is joined by NAACP, immigration reform advocates, religious leaders, and a DREAM activist, all united in the call on President Obama and Congress to pass common-sense, accountable immigration reform. Very important issue considering there are 3 million black immigrants in the United States who are largely neglected in the immigration reform discussion.
The event happens in advance of President Obama’s expected immigration policy outline during the State of the Union Address on February 12. It also comes just one week after a groundbreaking, national poll of U.S. voters that showed strong support among African Americans for long-term solutions to the immigration system.
Among the African Americans polled, 84 percent agree that “We would be better off if people who are in the country illegally became taxpayers so they could pay their fair share and can work toward citizenship in the future;” 64 percent say that it’s an important goal to ensure immigrants who come to the United States illegally become legal and have the opportunity to work toward citizenship.