Posted on May 7, 2011 - Dr. Hume Johnson
After 1838, European colonies in the Caribbean with expanding sugar industries imported large numbers of immigrants to meet their acute labor shortage. Large numbers of Jamaicans were recruited to work in Panama and Costa Rica in the 1850s. After slavery was abolished in the United States in 1865, American planters imported temporary workers, called “swallow migrants,” to harvest crops on an annual basis. These workers, many of them Jamaicans, returned to their countries after harvest. Between 1881 and the beginning of World War I, the United States recruited over 250,000 workers from the Caribbean, 90,000 of whom were Jamaicans, to work on the Panama Canal. During both world wars, the United States again recruited Jamaican men for service on various American bases in the region.
Since the turn of the twentieth century, three distinct waves of Caribbean immigration into the United States have occurred — most of these immigrants came from Jamaica. The first wave took place between 1900 and the 1920s, bringing a modest number of Caribbean immigrants. Official black immigration increased from 412 in 1899 to 12,245 in 1924, although the actual twice as high. By 1930, 178,000 documented first-generation blacks and their children lived in the United States. About 100,000 were from the British West Indies, including Jamaica. The second and weakest immigration wave occurred between the 1930s and the new immigration policy of the mid-1960s. The McCarran-Walter Act reaffirmed and upheld the quota bill, which discriminated against black immigrants and allowed only 100 Jamaicans into the United States annually. During this period, larger numbers of Jamaicans migration to Britain rather than to the United States due to the immigration restrictions.
Apart from Canada, the US houses the majority of Jamaican émigrés in the world. Jamaican immigration to the US increased during the 1960s civil rights era. As many other sources of Caribbean immigration, the geographical nearness of Jamaica to the US increased the likelihood of migration. The economic attractiveness, as well as general Jamaican perceptions of the US as a land of opportunity, explains continued migration flows despite economic downturn in America. Traditionally, America has experienced increased migration through means of family preference, in which US citizens sponsor their immediate family. Through this category a substantial amount of Jamaican immigrants were able to enter mainly urban cities within the U.S that provided blue-collar work opportunities. Jamaican immigrants utilized employment opportunities despite the discriminatory policies that affected some Caribbean émigrés.
Jamaican migration became so large that it caused a national crisis in Jamaica. The exodus has resulted in a serious “brain drain” and an acute shortage of professionals, such as skilled workers, technicians, doctors, lawyers, and managers, in essential services in Jamaica. During the 1970s and early 1980s about 15 percent of the population left the country. In the early 1990s the government began offering incentives to persons with technical, business, and managerial skills to return to Jamaica for short periods of time to aid in management and technical skills training.
At present, Jamaicans are the largest group of American immigrants from the English-speaking Caribbean. However, it is difficult to verify the exact number of Jamaican Americans in this country. The 1990 census placed the total number of documented Jamaican Americans at 435,025, but the high Jamaican illegal alien phenomenon and the Jamaican attitude toward census response may increase that number to 800,000 to 1,000,000 Jamaicans living in the United States. The largest Jamaican community is the Northeast, mainly in New York.
Source – Wikipedia
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