Demographic Profile of Black Undocumented Immigrants in the United States


This data and policy briefing examines the demographic and socioeconomic characteristics of Black undocumented immigrants living in the United States and provides estimates of this population that would be eligible for permanent residence (legalization) under pending bills including the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 (ADPA), the Dream Act of 2021, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, and the US Citizenship Act of 2021. The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) estimates that there are 582,300 Black undocumented immigrants, accounting for 5.6 percent of the total undocumented population living in the United States. Their proportion to the overall undocumented immigrant population has remained relatively constant, ranging from 5 to 6 percent, over the past decade (from 2010 to 2019).

The data and policy briefing offers the following top-line findings:

✔︎ Haitians (19 percent), Jamaicans (16 percent), and Nigerians (14 percent) together make up almost half of the total Black undocumented immigrant population in the United States.

✔︎ Even though Black undocumented immigrants are short-term residents, they have high English proficiency-level. Eighty-eight percent of Black undocumented immigrants speak English well, very well, or only English.

✔︎ The vast majority (85 percent) of Black undocumented immigrants in the United States are of working-age. On average, this is a young population, with a mean age of 33.1 years old, compared to 43.9 for Black documented immigrants, 35.7 for the Black US-born population, and 37.9 for the overall US-born population.

✔︎ Recently arrived Black undocumented immigrants are relatively more educated than those who immigrated in the past.

✔︎ Black documented immigrants pursue and complete higher education at higher levels than either Black undocumented immigrants or Black US-born population.

✔︎ Employment among Black undocumented immigrants (76 percent) is higher than that of Black documented immigrants (69 percent), the Black US-born (56 percent), and the overall US-born (60 percent) populations.

✔︎ Black undocumented immigrants are more likely to be employed in Service occupations and less likely to be employed in Management, business, science, and arts occupations compared to the Black documented and Black US-born populations.

✔︎ The average wage of working Black undocumented immigrants ages 16 and older ($30,283) is lower than that of the Black documented ($46,417), the Black US-born ($39,028) and the overall US-born ($52,167) populations. Black workers in the United States overall face a wage gap, and lack of legal status only exacerbates the wage differential.

✔︎ Legal status would provide Black undocumented immigrants with more education, higher incomes, jobs that better match their skill sets and more access to health insurance. Overall, legal status would promote the economic and social integration of undocumented immigrants.

✔︎ The enactment of pending bills would provide legal status and a path to citizenship to large number of undocumented Black Immigrants. In fact, all Black undocumented immigrants would be prima facie eligible for a legalization program under the US Citizenship Act of 2021, which would provide lawful prospective immigrant (LPI) status to undocumented immigrants who were physically present in the United States on or before January 1, 2021.

✔︎ As discussed in the CMS Report Ready to Stay: A Comprehensive Analysis of the US Foreign-Born Populations Eligible for Special Legal Status Programs and for Legalization under Pending Bills, Congress should pass broad immigration reform legislation to reform the underlying legal immigration system and allow the great majority of US undocumented residents to gain legal status. Additionally, Congress, the relevant federal agencies, and advocates should ensure that any legalization program be properly structured and sufficiently funded, particularly the work of community-based organizations, states, and localities.

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by Evin Millet

scalabrinian spirituality 2023


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