Beginning in the 1900’s the Caribbeans began migrating to the United States. Many of the immigrants were young and unmarried coming to New York for a better life. In the beginning, they worked low-wage salary jobs such as the men, working as doorman’s or laborers and the women were nannies and maids. It is quite common for a lot of Caribbean or Jamaican woman to be nannies up until today. At the beginning they faced much racism. As such, that they weren’t welcome with open arms, they needed to come together to find their niche and thus opened a few of their own churches and organizations. Besides for Caribbean immigrants, there were other West Indian groups that migrated, such as, Jamaicans and Haitians. They all have brought along many of their traditions and influences that ‘migrated into the United States’. For example, they now have something called “National Caribbean American Heritage Month.”
President Obama said about this the following: “Caribbean Americans have contributed to every aspect of our society-from science and medicine to business and the arts. During National Caribbean-American Heritage Month we honor their history, culture, and essential role in the American narrative.” Throughout this course, I have learned so much about the Caribbean culture and all the great aspects it does indeed contribute to society. On another note, in addition to New York, I came to see that South Florida was also a popular destination where Caribbeans migrated too, primarily from the Bahamas. “The eruption of the Haitian Revolution in 1791 sent another wave of migration from the Caribbean region. From the 1790s until approximately 1810, thousands of white, free colored, and some enslaved black Haitian refugees relocated to coastal cities such as Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and especially to New Orleans, where they made their most significant cultural and demographic impact.”
Today the Caribbean immigrants are regarded as black or African American immigrants and have finely established themselves in many different cities in the US. “Many American citizens currently categorized as “black” or African American in the federal censuses potentially have ancestors who were among tens of thousands of immigrants who migrated from the Caribbean region during the first decades of 20th century—roughly from the 1910s into the 1930s, or even earlier.” (Davis, Ancestors from West Indies) This is very interesting to note as unfortunately most people think that people of color are usually immigrants. For example, one many assume that all Mexicans they see have come here from Mexico but in fact many were born in the United States and have been here all their life. America has always been the land destined for immigrants to migrate too. A century ago most came from Europe.
In recent decades, the changes that have been made to immigration law have enabled to open doors to a new wave of immigrants. One of such is the 1965 Immigration Act which completely transformed America. This was signed by President Lyndon Johnson. This was geared towards Asian Americans which allowed them to come into the United States and register to become United States citizens. This also propelled a dramatic rise in the Latina population. As I’ve said earlier, immigrants typically migrate to the major population centers such as New York, Florida, California etc. In recent years, they have gone on to migrate in the quieter and less popular states. They liked the quietness as they felt they can establish themselves more properly there and have better job opportunities.
Nebraska, particularly in the City of Lexington in the 1990s, went from a population of 5,000 to 10,000. According to the John Fagot, the Mayor at that time said “there has never has been such culture diversity. He saw it as a positive to get see other ethnic groups come together and learn about each other. At first, there were a lot of language barriers but as time went on things were translated into their language. As we can see, this act profoundly changed the flow of immigrants coming into America. According to migrationpolicy.org “on average, most Caribbean immigrants obtain lawful permanent residence in the United States (also known as receiving a green card) through three main channels: They qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, through family-sponsored preferences, or as refugees and asylees.” There are currently over 12.5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Overall, most of them overstay their visa. Others have entered United States without authorization.
Since the number of illegal immigrants is so high, it is hard for the government to keep up with who is overstaying their visa or entering unlawfully. As such, whoever continues to remain here undocumented maintains a very low key presence and work low paying jobs to earn a living. Yet, for children, there is something called DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This allows children under sixteen years of age who have come here illegally, to “receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the US. After 2 years it is subject to renewal (Wikipedia)”. DACA was established in 2012 by former President Barak Obama but has since been abolished by current president, President Donald Trump. A lot of states were going to sue Trump if he did not end DACA as they felt it was unfair and did not meet the constitutional rights if illegal immigrants were allowed to become US citizens. As such, he ended it. There is currently a bill called the Dream Act which is quite similar to the DACA and would offer the possibility of becoming a US Citizen as well.
The problem is, congress is giving a hard time to pass this bill but the fight to get it passed still continues. On another note, in New York, one the most popular neighborhoods that Caribbeans establish themselves is in the borough of Brooklyn. Places include, Flatbush, Canarsie, Mill Basin, Crown Heights etc. They have gone on to open their own restaurants, groceries, hair and nail salons, electronic stores etc. They have brought their culture into New York. When one passes by a Caribbean neighborhood, they hear their lingo and smell their ethnic foods. One of things we spoke about that is well known from the Caribbeans is their dollar van service. It is the same price as the bus but with more convenient stops and seems to be quicker then the bus. This also brings to them the essence of how they traveled ‘back home’ When they bring they different stores or services into the city, they transform their roots to other people. For example, in my last discussion board, I wrote how merengue was brought to the United States and how through this symbolic, happy dance, Caribbeans are able to bring something from ‘back home ‘and share it with others.
In class, while presenting my mapping presentation of Crown Heights, I stated that I never noticed that just a few blocks away lies a Caribbean neighborhood. As I’m Jewish, it was known to me to be one of the Jewish neighborhoods. Personally, I and I believe most people, when passing by different neighborhoods view as the following: If there’s a lot of these type of people, then its this type of neighborhood. For example, near me is 5th and 6th avenues and whenever I go there I see a lot of Spanish people, so I assume it’s a Spanish neighborhood and it is, however, other ethnic groups live there as well. For the most part, we can tell what type of people live in each neighborhood based on the majority of people passing by and by different ethnic distinction in the streets. However, it should not only be based on what type of people live there, but what they add to that neighborhood. What cultural differences from us do they add that bring dimension to the neighborhood.
In his article about the Canarsie’s period of tense race relations and school protests, Gene Maeroff writes, “Preservation of community was, indeed, the prime issue in the minds of Canarsie residents. To them, the children who were being bussed into Canarsie symbolized the urban ills they were trying to hold at bay—bad schooling, crime, squalid housing, empty storefronts, drug addiction and unemployment. They saw the youngsters as the advance guard of an onslaught of blacks who ultimately would transform Canarsie into yet another slum.” Since the African American’s were based on what other cultures perceived or heard about them as a whole rather as an individual, they were not welcome with grace. It took much time for African Americans to get settled and the communities to welcome them. As time goes on and the longer they have been here, more of their culture gets adapted, and people come to accept them for who they are.
To conclude, we see that there were many hardships faced when Caribbeans and the other ethnic groups I discussed in small detail, migrated to the United States. Today, many of them have established themselves quite well and have had much success with their own businesses they have opened. They have brought their culture to the US and it has been implemented with much grace and acceptance. They’re food and music are very much known and have been adapted and used all over the world. Caribbeans are very vibrant and energetic people. Even though, they have gone through so much struggles to get where they are today, they keep charging, they keep moving forward. Thankfully today, they are recognized quite well as part of the American society.