Swelling Tide of African Migrants Challenges U.S.

Sub-Saharan Africans, the fastest growing cohort of immigrants to the U.S., are being hailed as a windfall for America.

Between 2010 and 2018, the sub-Saharan African population grew from about 1.3 million to more than 2 million, notes a new report from the Migration Policy Institute.

“Compared to the total foreign-born population in the United States, sub-Saharan Africans are better educated, tend to participate in the labor force at higher rates, and are more likely to speak English at home,” MPI concluded.

Those claims merit a rather large asterisk.

According to MPI’s own data, sub-Saharan Africans experience poverty at higher rates than immigrants overall, with more tapping into public benefits. About 19 percent lived in poverty in 2017, compared to 15 percent of all immigrants and 13 percent of the native born.

Poverty was most prevalent among Somalis (42 percent) and lowest among South Africans (9 percent). Generally, migrants from sub-Saharan Africa — all countries on the continent except Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia – tend toward the higher end of that range.

The explanation may go back to those reputed educational credentials. The quality of the institution granting a college degree or high school diploma is crucial. Was it located in the U.S.? In sub-Saharan Africa? MPI doesn’t say.

In fact, the education level of sub-Saharan Africans has degraded significantly in recent years.

“This population was much more educated decades ago. Back then they often came as students or to fill high-skill jobs. This produced a population that was small and much more educated. But as the visa lottery, refugee resettlement and family-based chain migration began to dominate the flow of new arrivals, education levels declined. As a result, a significant share of immigrants from this part of the world now struggle in the United States,” writes Steven Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies.

Immigration enthusiasts at the New American Economy (NAE) estimate that African immigrants earned $55.1 billion in 2015, with their households paying $10.1 billion in federal taxes. But without accounting for funds going offshore and the public services utilized by those immigrants, the NAE equation is incomplete. According to the most recent figures from the World Bank, sub-Saharan Africans in the U.S. sent $12.69 billion back to their home countries in 2018. Those remittances do nothing to build the U.S. economy. 

Meantime, U.S. communities are pressed to provide for the needs of new arrivals.

The city of Amarillo, Texas, home to more than 1,000 Somalis, is crying uncle. “We’ve been a giving community, and it’s a huge disservice to bring in refugees in numbers that we’re not able to handle,” stated Mayor Paul Harpole.

Joining the flow of refugees who have been resettled in recent years are a growing number of migrants posing as asylum seekers, who pass through numerous safe countries until they reach the U.S. border. The Los Angeles Times reported this week that the number of Africans transiting through Mexico to the U.S. jumped from 2,700 in 2018 to 5,800 this year. A recent United Nations report, which analyzed the large flow of African migrants to Europe in the mid-2010s, confirmed that most arrived “not for asylum or protection-related reasons,” but for better economic opportunities.

Then there’s the fraud. FAIR reported in October that tens of thousands of Kenyans posing as Somalis have been buying their way into the U.S. since the late 1990s. They are still living here.

It turns out that like a lot of other data that mass immigration enthusiasts cite to support their cases, the claim that sub-Saharan immigrants “are better educated” and “tend to participate in the labor force at higher rates,” is more than a bit outdated.

The “power of the purse,” as NAE puts it, appears to be tapping out.

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