Greater number of black immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship

While much of the focus on immigration reform centers on Latino immigrants, immigrants of all cultural backgrounds face a number of challenges when trying to become citizens of the United States. Black immigrants, in particular, are having a great impact on Louisiana and the U.S. as a whole, both politically and socially. Nearly nine percent of the 40 million immigrants nationwide are black, making the total number of black immigrants close to 1.8 million. This number is nearly twice as high as it was in the year 2000.

The largest group of black immigrants comes from Haiti, but many are also from Jamaica and Trinidad. The increase in black immigrants is likely attributable to an influx from not just the Caribbean, but Africa, as well. Over the past 20 years, the federal visa lottery has been granting green cards to people from countries that were less represented in the United States. Because of this, approximately one million African immigrants have come to the U.S., of which nearly 75 percent are black. Many newer African immigrants tend to come from Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. Research indicates that while black Africans are still a smaller immigrant group than black Caribbean immigrants, this could change in the near future.

While there has been an increase in black immigration overall, the number of black immigrants is still considerably smaller than the number of Latino and Asian American immigrants. However, many black immigrants come to the U.S. to work, study, be with their families or escape famine or war in their home countries. A great number of these immigrants are excitedly looking forward to acquiring U.S. citizenship. Legal immigrants do not have to apply for citizenship, but in most cases, immigrants are not permitted to apply for citizenship until they have been permanent residents for at least five years. The future looks bright for Caribbean and African immigrants who apply for citizenship and help encourage change in the United States.

Source: The Boston Globe, “The changing face of citizenship,” Mariah Sacchetti, Mar. 25, 2014