CMC WASHINGTON, United States – Research conducted by a Washington-based think tank has found that the Caribbean is the largest origin source of black immigrants in the United States. 

The Pew Research Centre, a nonpartisan think tank, referring to itself as a “fact tank”, said that while the Caribbean is the largest origin source of black immigrants in America, the fastest growth is among African immigrants. 

The Pew Research Centre provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends shaping the United States and the world.

“The vast majority of black immigrants are from two regions: the Caribbean and Africa,” said the centre, stating that these two areas accounted for 88 per cent of all black foreign-born people in the United States in 2019. 

It said black immigrants from Africa have been the primary driver for much of the overall recent growth in the black immigrant population. 

Between 2000 and 2019, the black African immigrant population grew 246 percent, from roughly 600,000 to two million, the Pew Research Centre said. 

As a result, it said people of African origin now make up 42 percent of the overall foreign-born black population, “a substantial increase from 2000 when that share was 23 percent. 

“Still, the Caribbean remains the most common region of birth for black immigrants,” said the centre, stating that just under half of the foreign-born black population were born in this region (46 percent). 

It said Jamaica and Haiti are the two largest origin countries, accounting for 16 per cent and 15 per cent of black immigrants, respectively, the Pew Research Centre said. 

Beyond Africa and the Caribbean, it said about one-in-10 black immigrants (eight per cent) were born in South America, Central America, or Mexico, while relatively small shares are from Europe (two per cent) or Asia (one per cent). 

The Pew Research Center noted that the trans-Atlantic slave trade marked the beginning of the black population in the US, with the first record of an enslaved African person in the US in 1619. 

It said the importation of enslaved African people persisted until 1808, when this practice was outlawed. 

By 1810, there was already a significant US black population (19 per cent of the overall population, according to the 1810 decennial census. 

The Pew Research Centre said restrictive immigration policies on non-Western Europeans after the US Civil War slowed the voluntary migration of black people to the US until the mid-20th century. 

It said the most recent wave of voluntary black immigration – as well as the arrival of immigrants from Latin America, Asia and the Middle East – is mostly due to changing immigration policies over the 20th century, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965. 

“The 1965 act marked a departure from the United States’ previous long-standing national origins quota system, which restricted the ability of immigrants from outside Western Europe to move to the US, to a new system that emphasised family reunification and skilled immigrants,” the Pew Research Centre said. 

“Black immigration to the US would later be expanded further with the Refugee Act of 1980,” it added. “The 1980 act both created a definition for refugees and created a system for refugee admissions.”

The Centre said this act also allowed for the refugee ceiling to be amended in emergency situations, such as the large influx of the refugee situation created by the Vietnam War in the late 1970s. 

The act also paved the way for refugees from countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and Ethiopia to come to the US in more recent years, the centre said. 

It said a decade later, the Immigration Act of 1990 created the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program to encourage immigration from countries that did not send many people to the US.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa program increased the number of immigrants from Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, among other countries, the Pew Research Centre said. 

It, however, said Jamaica and Haiti remain top countries of origin for black immigrants in the US, adding that the top 10 countries of origin accounted for 69 per cent of the foreign-born black population in 2000 and 66 per cent in 2019. All of these countries are in Africa or the Caribbean, the centre said.