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Immigration Experience From the Dominican Republic
Two sovereign states share the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo: the Dominican Republic occupies two thirds of the island to the east, and Haiti the remaining third to the west. After Cuba, the Dominican Republic is the second largest nation in the Caribbean region, covering more than eighteen square miles and an estimated 10 million people (embassy). Santo Domingo is the nation's capital. Founded in 1486, it was the first permanent colony to be established in the western hemisphere.
In the second half of the twentieth century, the people of the Dominican Republic went through three separate waves of migration. The first two were largely migration of political refugees, and the third was motivated more by economics. The first wave began in 1961 and was prompted by the assassination of the nation's military dictator, General Rafael Trujillo. The ensuing political unrest and fear of military conflict drove great numbers of political leaders and citizens out of the country. A second, but closely related wave began in 1965 when the country entered a civil war. A few months into the conflict, the United States Marine Corp entered Santo Domingo to restore order and help stabilize the political climate. As a result, the United States eased limits on travel making it easier for migrants to obtain visas to enter America. In September 1966, the U.S. intervention ended. The effects of the civil war included ongoing political repression, interruption to education and health services, and skyrocketing unemployment caused the wave of emigrants to continue for over a decade. The third wave began in the early 1980s when inflation and unemployment rose sharply causing an unprecedented level of immigrants. Between 1981 and 1990, legal Dominican immigration rose to 250,000, far exceeding those from Cuba and other Caribbean states, and numbered more than "any other Western Hemisphere national group except migrants from Mexico" (Rumbaut, 2008).
As a result of these three waves, more than 400,000 men, women, and children legally migrated to the United States between 1961 and 1984; and thousands more illegally (Gonzalez, 2001). In 1990, 300,000 Dominicans were known to reside in New York City, one of the largest minority populations in four decades which, additionally, accounts for half of all Dominican Republic immigrant population in the U.S. Today, well established Dominican communities, primarily in the northern states, serve as a welcoming committee for new Dominican immigrants, whose numbers remain high. From 1990 to 2000, according the U.S. Census Bureau, the number nearly doubled from roughly 348,000 to over 682,000. Furthermore, the census indicated an additional one million people are of Dominican decent.
These numbers are formidable and testify to the significance of the Dominican communities in the United States. Despite these statics, the Dominican immigrants have been largely overlooked and relatively unstudied. Demographical data is sketching and is often extrapolated from general population data. Generally speaking, more Dominican immigrants arrive from urban areas than other immigrants groups such as those from Puerto Rico or Mexico. As a result, they are generally better educated and have greater political literacy. Education reports indicate that the vast majority of Dominican immigrants are literate, and 42% of the people over the age of twenty have completed 12 years or more of formal education. Regarding labor, the greatest percentage of skilled laborers, classified as "precision, production, craft, and repair," entering the United States in the 1990s from the Caribbean States, came from the Dominican Republic. Of those Dominicans who migrated to the U.S. between 1986 and 1991, there were 15,000 professionals. Furthermore, the study shows that Dominican immigrants are young, with 42% of this population falling into the 20-44-year range (Hope, 2002).
Traditionally, Dominicans face many challenges when they arrive in the United States including poverty and prejudice. The United Nations subcommittee on Human Development recently identified the U.S. Dominican population as the poorest ethnic group. Poverty for the Dominican migrants rose sharply in the late 1990's. In New York, single mother households rose by 8.5% between 1989 and 1997 contributing to the rise of poverty which reached 45% of the population. Another contributing factor to this condition is the low educational level of over 50% of these immigrants. Without proper education, it is difficult for them to maneuver in the job market. Another factor is the language barrier. Many immigrants live and work within…[continue]
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