Any baseball fan who was around in the ‘60s would probably remember Tony Oliva, the admired former Minnesota Twins right fielder, three-time batting champion and eight-time All-Star.
Oliva, an immigrant from Cuba, spoke to scores of people during a recent Green Card Voices dinner in Minneapolis about his journey to Minnesota and how the U.S. is an open field for those willing to turn their dreams into reality, whatever the color of their skin.
“In this country, you have a chance to achieve your dream,” he told the crowd. “My dream was to play baseball. I wasn’t able to play [in major leagues] in Cuba, but I was able to play in the United States.”
Like Oliva, millions of black immigrants are finding their way to the United States in pursuit of success and a better life. And according to an April Pew Research Center report, a recent stream of immigrants from the Caribbean and African countries has swollen and reshaped the general population of the nation’s black communities.
A record 3.8 million foreign-born black immigrants now live in the U.S., making it 9 percent of the U.S. black population, a leap from 3.1 percent in 1980, the report states. The rise of black immigration in the U.S. is expected to continue, with the report projecting that 16.5 percent of the U.S. black population will be foreign-born by 2060.
Though black immigrants arrive on American shores from many parts of the world, those from the Caribbean make up half of the black foreign-born population. Jamaica and Haiti represent the largest population among black immigrants, with 682,000 immigrants from Jamaica and 586,000 from Haiti.
In recent years, however, the influx of immigrants from Africa has ballooned the black immigrant population, the report states. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of African immigrants increased from 574,000 to 1.4 million. Today, Africans account for 36 percent of the total black immigrant population in the nation.
The majority of black immigrants arriving from Africa come from Sub-Saharan African countries — with only 1 percent of black foreign-born immigrants coming from North Africa. Nigeria and Ethiopia have the largest population among African immigrants in the nation.
The study adds: “Many black immigrants are from Spanish-speaking countries. Among these, the Dominican Republic is the largest country of birth, accounting for 166,000 black immigrants. Mexico is also a source of black immigration with roughly 70,000 black immigrants. Some 41,000 are from Cuba, and 32,000 are Panamanian. Moreover, 11% of the foreign-born black population identifies as Hispanic.”
Black immigrants vs. African-Americans
The study, “A Rising Share of the U.S. Black Population Is Foreign Born,” also compares the black U.S.-born population with black immigrants, revealing some socioeconomic, educational and age differences:
- Black immigrants have a median age of 42, compared with 29 for native-born blacks.
- Twenty-six percent of black immigrants have a college education, compared with 19 percent of American-born blacks.
- Foreign-born immigrants are less likely to live in poverty and have higher incomes than their U.S.-born counterparts.
- Forty-eight percent of black immigrants aged 18 or older are married, compared with 28 percent of U.S.-born blacks.
The study adds: Despite their higher level of education and higher income, black immigrants are less likely to purchase homes, compared with all Americans.
Oliva, the former Twins star, who arrived in the U.S. in 1961, told the crowd at the April 18 fundraiser that he has been to various countries in the world, but has never laid eyes on a country more receptive than the U.S. “Nobody does what Americans do for people,” he said. “Nobody.”
He continued: “Thank you to the United States of America for that because we can get a chance to work and achieve the dream.”