Center for American Progress

The Top 3 Things You Need to Know About Black Immigrants in the United States in 2018

The Top 3 Things You Need to Know About Black Immigrants in the United States in 2018

Black immigrants are an integral part of the U.S. population and a critical part of the discussion over policies such as the Dream Act.

An immigration rally on the Boston Common, April 2017. (Getty/Craig F. Walker)
An immigration rally on the Boston Common, April 2017. (Getty/Craig F. Walker)

It’s not the first time the nation finds itself in the midst of an uproar sparked by President Donald Trump’s incendiary and racially charged comments about immigration. In December 2017, it leaked that President Trump had reportedly made inflammatory remarks about Nigerian immigrants not wanting to “go back to their huts” and that Haitian immigrants “all have AIDS,” drawing widespread rebukes, including from the Haitian ambassador to the United States. Yesterday, in the Oval Office, Trump referred to Haitian and African immigrants—among others—as coming from “shithole countries.” However, reality does not reflect the insensitive and incendiary comments of the president: Black immigrants comprise a significant and important part of the U.S. population.

Here are three facts you need to know about black immigrants in the United States today.

1. There are 3.7 million black immigrants in the United States

These immigrants comprise 8.4 percent of all immigrants in the country and come from a diverse set of places. Just less than half—48 percent—of all black immigrants come from the Caribbean, 43 percent from African countries, and 3.6 percent from South America.

The largest individual home countries of black immigrants in the United States today are Jamaica (693,000), Haiti (654,000), Nigeria (304,000), Ethiopia (237,000), and Trinidad and Tobago (171,000).

Black immigrants also make up more than one-quarter of all black residents of the Boston, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, and Seattle metropolitan areas.*

2. Black immigrants have high rates of education and employment

Well over one-quarter (29 percent) of black immigrants 25 and older hold a bachelor’s or advanced degree, similar to the rate for all immigrants (30 percent). Additionally, black immigrants are more likely than all immigrants to have some college education or an associate’s degree (29 percent compared to 19 percent). These education attainment rates for black immigrants are similar to those for native-born Americans at 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

Black immigrants are more likely to be active in the labor force than all other groups of immigrants. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of black immigrants 16 and older are in the labor force compared with 67percent of all immigrants and 64 percent of native-born Americans.*

3. Black immigrants make up a small share but substantial number of DACA recipients

The Trump administration ended DACA on September 5, 2017. Overall, nearly 11,000 DACA recipients are from countries where more than half of the nations’ immigrants to the United States are black. Additionally, the Migration Policy Institute estimates that roughly 3 percent, or 36,000 African immigrants, would have been eligible for DACA, meaning that the population of black Dreamers—and thus of people who would be eligible for the Dream Act—is potentially much higher than those currently protected by DACA.


Given the number of black Dreamers, it is all the more imperative that Congress comes together and passes the bipartisan Dream Act to allow these Dreamers permanent protection from deportation and the ability to live full and free lives in the United States. Now is the time for Americans across the country to call on their elected officials to reject the mistaken and racist comments of the president by taking action to protect immigrant families, which includes passing the Dream Act without further delay.

Nicole Prchal Svajlenka is a senior policy analyst with the Immigration Policy team at the Center for American Progress.

*Author’s note: Data analysis of 2016 American Community Survey 1-year public use microdata accessed via Steven Ruggles, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Josiah Grover, and Matthew Sobek, “Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 7.0” (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2017), available at Labor force participation rates reflect the civilian, noninstitutionalized population.

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Nicole Prchal Svajlenka

Former Director of Research, Rights and Justice