By George Fishman | Newsday
From 1970 to 2019, the Black immigrant population increased from about 250,000 to 4.6 million, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, increasing its share of Black America tenfold to 10%. Recently, Newsday released data from the Pew Research Center finding that nearly 81,000 Black immigrants reside on Long Island, representing 26% of its Black population.
Africans receive about 40% of all “diversity” green cards. This free-to-enter lottery with minimal eligibility requirements provides an excellent gauge of how many people would immigrate if they could. An astounding number of Africans try their luck — over 11 million in 2020, including 8 to 15% of the entire citizenries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana. This is the equivalent to 25 to 45 million Americans seeking to emigrate each year.
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The Congressional Black Caucus has long been fiercely protective of the diversity program because, according to former CBC chairman Cedric Richmond, it “provides an opportunity for immigrants of color to fight for a chance at the American dream.” Whether visas-by-lottery makes sense or not, the CBC’s support is heartening. If it viewed America as essentially oppressive or racist, it surely would neither fight to preserve the program nor entice Blacks to immigrate.
Pew reports that between a third and half of Ghanaians, Nigerians and Kenyans want to come here. Are they aware of our racial discord? Most likely, as Pew reports that of those who stay in regular touch with friends and relatives abroad, 30 to 40% do so with persons in the U.S.
A 2002 poll by the Public Agenda Foundation found that almost all Caribbean immigrants (half being Black) were extremely or somewhat happy here, three-quarters would come again, and 80% believed that America stood for something special in the world, findings reinforced in 2014 by the University of Chicago’s research organization NORC.Sign up for The Point
I will never forget the words of a Nigerian beneficiary of congressional immigration relief, who said, “Only in this country can so many miraculous and wonderful things happen to someone like me.”
It is not as if Black immigrants have rose-colored glasses. Public Agenda reported that 20% of Caribbean immigrants cited discrimination or prejudice as their biggest hurdle here; more than two-thirds believed that nonwhite immigrants faced more of it. Yet, many more believed that America respected people of different lifestyles and backgrounds than believed so about their native country. Three-quarters trusted the police to protect their families.null
Black immigration is a belated rebuke to the efforts of the American Colonization Society, which enticed free Blacks to move to Africa in the 19th Century. It represents a vote of confidence in America, its principles, its institutions and its people.
George Fishman, a Dix Hills native, is a former acting chief counsel for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.