1 Black Immigration
America is a land consisting of immigrants; from the natives who immigrated from the East, the white Americans who were settlers and the Cuban Americans from Cuba, and the Black Americans who first came to America involuntarily as slaves. This essay will investigate the immigration of the Black Americans, factors for the immigration, voluntary and the involuntary immigration, the triumphs and challenges of the immigration. Immigrants are people who move into another country and permanently settles there unlike a migrant who only stays in the visiting jurisdiction for a period of time. Major causes of immigration have been cited as political, economical and social factors that motivate the move either voluntarily or involuntarily.
The first Africans to move into the United States against their will as they were brought in as slaves and sold to land owners and any one who needed a labourer. When the Spanish invaded the new found land of America, they came in with diseases that nearly wiped away all the population of the Native Americans and left the remaining population too weak to weak to resist being colonized and few in numbers to work efficiently in the plantations. Later came the English who formed colonies and had plantation farms that needed laborers and with the trans-Atlantic trade, Africans were shipped to the new found lands to toil. This forced them to seek labor hands from somewhere else and thus Africans were brought in to work. Historically, the first Africans first docked into the colonial town of Jamestown Virginia at around 1619.
In 1966, the State of Maryland passed a statute that prescribed that all Negroes and other slaves within the province should serve during life and all children born of any negro should be slaves as well for the term of their lives. The legislation also prohibited any intermarriages or inter social relationships between the slaves and the Whites. By 1682, there were even stricter rules that forbade any slave from possessing a firearm, walk around without a pass, quarrel or argue with the Whites or even retaliated or rather acted in self defense against any harm verbal or physical occasioned against them.
There were sympathisers who felt that slavery should be restricted and/or abolished and even attempted to push the English Parliament to pass such laws but close to the end of 1770, King George ordered that any law that seeks to restrict or abolish slavery and the trade in slavery shall not be assented. The African slaves were paid for in food and running away was an offense; in the wake of July 1640, one negro attempted to escape and on being caught, he was publicly whipped and letter R branded on his cheek. such were the treatment the slaves received. Slavery then quickly spread to other colonies in America and as their demand arose, so did the discriminatory laws that segregated them from the settlers and the colonies. The
voyage from Africa to America was not a pretty one as they were not accorded a human status but goods status and thus their transportation always resulted to the deaths of those who could not survive the harsh weather and treatment they received from their captors and ‘owners’.
The slaves were shackled in the ships with both their arms and legs bound and then put in holds below the deck of the ship. The shipment has been described as cruel and merciless; first, the Africans were arrested late at night from their homes, herded into cattle cars that had no ventilation or sanitary conditions and drove to the concentration camps (coastal regions for instance, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Senegal among others) where they were stripped naked for examination and tagged. They were then transported via canoes to the vessel and upon reaching the ship, they would again be stripped and transported in nudity. Meals were provided once a day during the voyage where a salt water was passed around for washing of hands then served with either rice or yams or beans. The captain would then order when to dip the hand for the meal and when to swallow.
It is estimated that about 11 million of Africans were forcefully immigrated between 16th and mid 19th centuries. Well, slavery continued even after America got its independence from the British and even more segregation laws superseded that of the Colonists but the Africans who felt that they were part of the new America from their contribution in the war for independence started to demand for their civil rights. Civil Rights movements/war in the Reconstruction era accorded the Africans citizenship status of America and equal right protection. (Becker 1990)
After the civil rights freedom and the abolition of the segregation laws, more Africans immigrated to America in search of better education and greener pastures; this voluntary immigration is still present to date. There has been a recognizable influx of Africans in America in the last two decades and according to the Immigration and Naturalization Services (INS), there were about 531,832 Africans who immigrated between 1981 and 2000. The United States lures black immigrants for being a land of freedom and many opportunities as well as utter respect for human rights. There is the green card program where the United States receive application from Africans who want to study in America and also offers permanent citizenship as well. Many African students have reiterated that life is more affordable in the United States than in European countries and that they believe there is no stint of racism (the racism war was fought and won).
After the education period is completed, most of the African will always apply to become citizens of America and only return to their country of origin for brief visits. Globalization has been accredited for the immigration of Africans into America as America represents the world of economical achievements and the conducive climate it provides for entrepreneurs. The move to America is motivated by the lack of employment, low pay and
underemployment in their country of origin. Others run away from an abusive relationship or a restrictive cultural practises and norms.
Disappointed of independence has also been recorded as a factor that has influenced the voluntary immigration; many Africans had hopes and optimism of self rule and freedom as well an economic growth and development.
Then they formulated their own constitution , went to the election and their elected representatives have terribly disappointed them as well as oppressed them. Their leaders promised them better living conditions, employment n social and economic life which sadly, have never been delivered to date. Africans members of parliament earn more than what electorate Representatives in developed countries earn while the rest of the population languish in poverty. The elected politicians and appointed public officials are involved in embezzlement and other white collar crimes and are rarely prosecuted; where they are prosecuted, prosecution is weak and the bench rarely find them liable thus these acts recur. These instances disguise the citizens and the parents have no hope of their children ever getting employed after education and so they send their children to the United States for education and creation for a better life for their families. The economic paralysis in African countries have led to the immigration of professional skills who seek economic fortunes.
The health care system is also responsible for the immigration as there are better health care provision in the United States than in Africa. Recently, the news cable, CNN featured a documentary on the mental health institution in Kenya where the mentally handicapped and temporal mentally sick patients were treated and housed in a deplorable conditions. The mental headquarter institution in Kenya chained the inmates and combined both the male and female inmates; the female inmates have complained about rape that have fallen on deaf ears. In fact, the CNN journalists were locked with the inmates when they captured some inhumane treatment offered and even a call from the Prime Minister’s office calling for the release of the journalists were resisted at first until someone was sent that they were released. Although Africa’s desperate economic and political factors influence the contemporary influx of immigration to the United States, the apparent relaxation of the United States immigration policies have also been influential.
Two policies in particular: the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act and the Diversity Visa Program that was introduced as part of the 1990 Immigration Act. While the 1986 Act made it easier for undocumented immigrants, including those from Africa then living in the United States to become permanent residents, the Diversity Visa Program, which was aimed at promoting immigration from hitherto underrepresented countries and regions of the world allowed up to 50,000 “qualified” Africans annually to migrate to the United States through a lottery process. At the same time that new opportunities for immigration to the United States were occurring, the slumping European economy, especially since the 1990s, and tighter immigration by many European countries, including Great Britain and France that had been the traditional areas of immigrants from Africa, have made the United States even more attractive to African immigrants.
The incumbent president of the United States, Mr. Barrack Obama, is a product of African Immigration; his father on an education trip in the United States fell in love with an America and like other Africans, Obama would have adopted the nationality of his father who later returned to Kenya but opted to stay in the United States. In his autobiography, Mr. Obama has described the living situation in Kenya which he used to visit during the school holidays and remarks that the government does not give hope to the youth and their is no economic future for the younger generation; the more reason he opted to pursue that in the United States. Well, America being a land of hope, freedom and liberation did not stop or deny him the opportunity to contest for presidency which he won in 2008.
There is also the group of Africans who immigrate to the United States for refuge/asylum. This category of Africans flee for a well found fear of persecution for their religious, political and ideological stances. Their immigration can be classified as involuntary since in absence of the factors that influence their fleeing/immigration, they would have permanently lived in their country of origin or country of residence other than America. These people believe that they will be protected and their rights governed by the government of America thus seeking asylum and refuge. For instance, Africans from war torn and hunger stricken countries like Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia flood the United States daily seeking refuge and asylum since neutral countries in Africa that should be offering refuge to them during the endless wars are no better than their own. The refuge camps in the neutral countries are marred with cases of corruption, violence, poor sanitary conditions, poor and inadequate diet, poor housing conditions and poor security as well thus these poor souls move to the American consuls ans seek immigration to America.
During the apartheid system in South Africa, many of its anti-apartheid activists fled to America and during the Nigerian civil war especially between the years of 1986 and 1999, most of the displaced Biafra immigrated to the United States as well. Among the Africans immigrants in the United States, statistics put Nigerians as the highest population among African immigrants in the United States.
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