Africa has the fastest-growing number of immigrants in the United States, according to a Quartz analysis of US Census Bureau data.
The number of African migrants grew at a rate of almost 50% from 2010 to 2018. This is more than double the growth rate of migration to the US from Asia, South America or the Caribbean. It’s worth noting the higher growth rate of Africans is partly influenced by the relatively smaller African migrant communities compared with the size of longer-established communities from Central America, for example.
This is true even among African communities. While Nigerians remain the largest population group of African immigrants in the US, Cameroon leads the list in terms of rate of growth. The number of Cameroonian-born migrants in the US doubled to 80,000 in 2018 compared with 2010, with much of that growth occurring in the last several years. This makes the Cameroonian population the fastest growing in the US. These numbers are based on survey results and are likely to be accurate within 10,000 people.
The so called Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, where the government’s crackdown on protests by English-speaking citizens has fueled a separatist movement in the predominantly French-speaking country is likely partly responsible for the spike. The protests against the Francophone-led government have led to violent battles in recent years, causing Cameroonians to flee the country.
But the increase doesn’t just stem from Africans and Cameroonians seeking asylum or refugee status, it also comes from those coming to the US to further their education. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, from 2006 to 2014, the number of African students pursuing post-secondary degrees abroad grew 24%, rising from about 343,000 to 427,000. It rose 9% from 2013 to 2014 alone.
Africans have also benefited from the US Diversity Visa Lottery Program, better known as the “Green Card lottery.” Countries like Ghana, which is also among the top five African countries with a fast-growing immigrant population in the US, had the highest number of applicants than any other country in 2015 and at least a million applicants in 2016. The US State Department sets regional quotas every year and in 2017, the largest number of visas (about 19,000) went to citizens of African countries.
However, recent moves by the Trump administration could affect these trends. His administration has been accused of using “workarounds” to limit legal migration from certain regions of the world including Africa and the Caribbean. One of such policy is restricting who can apply for a diversity visa by mandating that all applicants have valid passports. Immigrant advocates say this development could deter applicants from the developing world.
“This seems like a backdoor strategy to discourage low-income people from applying for the diversity visa lottery; we know that this president has expressed strong preference for immigrants that are wealthy, white and European,” said Amaha Kassa, executive director of the nonprofit, African Communities Together.
While it remains to be seen how new US immigration policies will impact the flow of African migrants, Kassa says that any declines in the numbers will likely be temporary. “This is a detour because I don’t think majority of Americans agree with Trump’s restrictionist agenda.
“As long as African migrants have children who are becoming citizens and voters, over time we will become a more welcoming and inclusive society.”