Front Cover
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 The United States role in Caribbean...
 International migration and the...
 Migration from the Caribbean to...
 Black immigrants and American ethos:...
 Puerto Ricans in the U.S.: Growth...
 Haitian immigrants in Boston: A...
 West Indians in Los Angeles: Community...
 The Caribbean expatriate: Barriers...
 Perspectives on the total utilizatioin...
 Professional migration: The brain...
 Caribbean immigrants: Some further...
 Caribbean migration to the United...
 Caribbean migration to the United...
 Research note on the U.S. Virgin...
 Notes on the contributors
 Research institute on immigration...

Group Title: RIIES occasional paper - Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies ; 1
Title: Caribbean immigration to the United States
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00087171/00001
 Material Information
Title: Caribbean immigration to the United States
Series Title: RIIES occasional papers
Physical Description: vi, 257 p. : ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Bryce-Laporte, Roy S
Mortimer, Delores M
Publisher: Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies, Smithsonian Institution
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: 1976
Subject: West Indians -- United States   ( lcsh )
Emigration and immigration -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Emigration and immigration -- United States   ( lcsh )
Emigración e inmigración -- EE. UU
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: United States of America
Puerto Rico
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 205-250).
Statement of Responsibility: edited by Roy S. Bryce-Laporte, Delores M. Mortimer.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00087171
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 03722828
lccn - 76046748

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
    The United States role in Caribbean migration: Background to the problem
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
    International migration and the political economy of underdevelopment: Aspects of the Commonwealth Caribbean situation
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
    Migration from the Caribbean to the States: The economic status of the immigrants
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
    Black immigrants and American ethos: Theories and observations
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
    Puerto Ricans in the U.S.: Growth and differentiantion of the community
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
    Haitian immigrants in Boston: A commentary
        Page 111
        Page 112
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
    West Indians in Los Angeles: Community and identity
        Page 130
        Page 131
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
        Page 135
        Page 136
        Page 137
        Page 138
        Page 139
        Page 140
        Page 141
        Page 142
        Page 143
        Page 144
        Page 145
        Page 146
        Page 147
        Page 148
    The Caribbean expatriate: Barriers to returning, perspectives of the natural scientist
        Page 149
        Page 150
        Page 151
        Page 152
        Page 153
        Page 154
        Page 155
        Page 156
        Page 157
    Perspectives on the total utilizatioin of manpower and the Caribbean expatriate: Barriers to returning
        Page 158
        Page 159
        Page 160
        Page 161
        Page 162
        Page 163
        Page 164
        Page 165
        Page 166
        Page 167
        Page 168
    Professional migration: The brain drain from the West Indies and Africa
        Page 169
        Page 170
        Page 171
        Page 172
        Page 173
        Page 174
        Page 175
        Page 176
        Page 177
        Page 178
        Page 179
        Page 180
        Page 181
    Caribbean immigrants: Some further perspectives on their lives
        Page 182
        Page 183
        Page 184
        Page 185
        Page 186
        Page 187
        Page 188
        Page 189
        Page 190
        Page 191
        Page 192
    Caribbean migration to the United States: Some tentative conclusions
        Page 193
        Page 194
        Page 195
        Page 196
        Page 197
        Page 198
        Page 199
        Page 200
        Page 201
        Page 202
        Page 203
        Page 204
    Caribbean migration to the United States: A selective bibliography
        Page 205
        Page 206
        Page 207
        Page 208
        Page 209
        Page 210
        Page 211
        Page 212
        Page 213
        Page 214
        Page 215
        Page 216
        Page 217
        Page 218
        Page 219
        Page 220
        Page 221
        Page 222
        Page 223
        Page 224
        Page 225
        Page 226
        Page 227
        Page 228
        Page 229
        Page 230
        Page 231
        Page 232
        Page 233
        Page 234
        Page 235
        Page 236
        Page 237
        Page 238
        Page 239
        Page 240
        Page 241
        Page 242
        Page 243
        Page 244
        Page 245
        Page 246
        Page 247
        Page 248
        Page 249
        Page 250
    Research note on the U.S. Virgin Islands
        Page 251
        Page 252
        Page 253
        Page 254
        Page 255
        Page 256
    Notes on the contributors
        Page 257
    Research institute on immigration and ethnic studies: Present and forthcoming publications
        Page 258
        Page 259
Full Text

Caribbean Immigration to the United States

RIIES Occasional Papers No. 1


Im Edited by


Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1976

@ Research Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies
Smithsonian Institution 1976

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 76-46748


Introduction i

"The United States' Role in Caribbean Migration: Background
to the Problem"
Roy S. Bryce-Laporte 1

"International Migration and the Political Economy of Under-
development: Aspects of the Commonwealth Caribbean Situation"
Hilbourne A. Watson 16

"Migration from the Caribbean to the States: The Economic
Status of the Immigrants"
Ransford W. Palmer 44

"Black Immigrants and the American Ethos: Theories and
Dennis Forsythe 55

"Puerto Ricans in the U.S.: Growth and Differentiation of a
Centro de Estudios PuertorriqueRos, CUNY 83

"Haitian Immigrants in Boston: A Commentary"
Pierre-Michel Fontaine 111

"West Indians in Los Angeles: Community and Identity"
Joyce Bennett Justus 130

"The Caribbean Expatriate: Barriers to Returning --
Perspectives of the Natural Scientist"
Theodore A. Bremner 149

"Perspectives on the Total Utilization of Manpower and the
Caribbean Expatriate: Barriers to Returning"
Edwin H. Daniel 158

"Professional Migration: The Brain Drain from the West Indies
and Africa -- Abbreviated Remarks"
Rawle Farley 169

"Caribbeans in America: Some Further Perspectives on Their Lives"
Delores M. Mortimer 182

"Caribbean Migration to the United States: Some Tentative
Roy S. Bryce-Laporte 193

Christine Davidson and Hubert Charles 205

APPENDIX: Research Note on the U.S. Virgin Islands 251



The Smithsonian Institution was created by an Act of

Congress in 1848 to carry out the terms of the will of James
Smithson of England, who had bequeathed his entire estate to
the United States to "found at Washington ... an establishment
for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men."
Today, the Smithsonian Institution is known throughout
the world as a special kind of museum which excels as a center
of scientific, historical and anthropological research. As a
center of higher studies,' it has a growing interest in contem-
porary phenomena. In 1973 the Research Institute on Immigration
and Ethnic Studies (RIIES) was founded within the Division of
Science. The Institute's mission was to include consultative
services as well as to stimulate, facilitate, disseminate and
carry out research on contemporary immigration to the United
States. The scope of this work, while focused on movement of
major immigrant groups into the continental United States since
passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, also
included explicit concern with the extra-territorial juris-
dictions of the United States as both recipients and donors of
contemporary migrants.
As part of its stimulating and disseminating efforts,
RIIES has sponsored or participated in various public presenta-
tions and professional seminars on the subject of the new
immigration to the United States. In addition, it seeks to
communicate studied statements of academic scholars and provide
direction in the study of those issues and areas concerning
contemporary immigration which should be brought to the attention
of public officials, private institutions, professional groups,
and other members of the general public having special interest
in or responsibility for immigration policy or service delivery
to immigrant groups.
In the view of the Research Institute, the new immigra-
tion represents the newest extension of the continued historical

process of the peopling of the United States. However, this
particular movement represents a qualitative change in character-
istics and patterns, relative to its pre-1965 predecessors. In

general their countries of origin are emergent, developing and
either dependent or subordinate in their relations with the United
States. Traditional Western and Northern European countries, and
even Canada, have been replaced by Mediterranean, Asian, Latin
American and Caribbean countries as the major sources of U.S.
immigration. The new immigrants are phenotypically, culturally,
and linguistically very visible compared to either the main stock
of native-born Americans or the traditional immigrant population.
Therefore, they face and pose challenges quite distinct from
those of their most recent predecessors. This is so perhaps
because of their high visibility and cultural variance.
Certainly worries about unemployment and limited economic
opportunities, in addition to a growing expression of resistance

toward further population growth, also contribute to the
distinctiveness of their experiences.
The United States finds itself confronted by the dilemma

of an open-door policy tradition toward immigration on the one
hand, and on the other hand a growing "politics of resistance"
and alarm toward the continuation of such a policy. Unfortu-
nately, the controversy proceeds without reasoned debate or
scholarly depth. None of the various sides of the arguments or
issues has been fully identified or pursued. Most of the policy
research and ensuing recommendations proceed without benefit of a
broader examination of the problem. Instead, what is done is to
proceed with a limited view of what immigration and its policies
mean to the various levels of American society (in short- and
long-run terms), or what it means to immigrants themselves, their
countries/regions of origin, the larger international economic
and diplomatic role of the United States relative to such
countries/regions, and the reverberation of all these factors on

American society, culture, economy and image. Though undoubtedly
significant and complex, such reverberations need not be totally
negative or undesirable.
This volume on recent Caribbean migration to the United

States is the first of a series of occasional papers intended to
highlight particular angles, areas or aspects of the new immigra-
tion within the comprehensive framework through which the new
immigration is viewed by the Institute. The Caribbean is not a
new source of U.S. immigrants. But, several of the nations now
involved figure heavily among the sources of recent immigrants --
legal and illegal. This new migration from this particular area
is neither isolated, discrete nor mechanistic. It is not
simplistic nor one-sided in causes or consequences, patterns or
problems. Perhaps more than any other source area of the new
immigration (save perhaps Mexico) the movement of peoples of
Caribbean origin to the United States is intrinsically and
specifically related to a history of North American policies and
attitudes toward that region -- its land, labor force, economy
and politics.
Immigrants from the Caribbean or West Indies have made
several contributions to the history and development of the
United States, in numerous spheres of activity. Individuals from
the islands have participated in the early settling of the
frontier, the battle for independence, industrial and technolog-
ical inventions, athletic, artistic and scholarly endeavors,
local and ethnic politics, and even diplomacy. Caribbean
immigrants and their offspring are believed to hold a dispropor-
tionate share of successful and leadership positions among the
non-white minorities in this country. And, precisely because
they have operated within defined structures of society and have
sought to resolve their problems and achieve their ambitions
within the context of such superimposed larger ethnic or economic
status categories as black, poor, urban, Spanish-speaking, non-
white, etc., they are seldom viewed as immigrants or sub-ethnics
by the larger society.
It can be said that as a group the people of the Carib-
bean suffer multiple levels of ethnic invisibility. They suffer
much disregard and discrimination, together with native-born
blacks and other non-whites. And, even when they may be treated
as part of the larger group with certain favors and redresses,
their particular needs, concerns and desires as sub-ethnics or as

a composite immigrant group are less known than the successes

they achieve and the services they render as individuals. At
other times the problems they present as a group are exaggerated
over the contributions and potential they represent. Hence, it
is not often considered that a sizeable proportion of the early
slave population in the United States was brought from or secured
in the West Indies before coming to perform forced labor in the

U.S.; that the bulk of the labor force which built and manned
American enterprises in Central and South America were from the
West Indies; that a sizeable contingent of West Indians entered
the U.S. labor market as temporary migrants and permanent
residents to provide labor for firms, farms and factories at a
time when the local labor supply had been diverted by war needs
or saturated by industrial booms. Then, there are many Carib-
bean peoples who come as U.S. nationals from extra-territorial
holdings (such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), native-
born North and Latin Americans of West Indian ancestry, Cuban and
Haitian refugees, and Dominican immigrants (including illegals and

part-time students), and who continue to contribute to the working
and professional forces in this country.

Today there is a general increase in visibility, marked

by a heightened awareness of consciousness and identity, among
most immigrant and ethnic groups in the United States, perhaps
throughout the world. Caribbean peoples are no exception. The
latter's increased visibility, however, is compounded by recent
circumstances and characteristics which are particular to them;
that is, the assertion of Civil Rights and affirmative action
demands by non-white minorities in the U.S.; the aggressive

pursuit of independence and self-determination by emergent
nations in Africa and the Caribbean; the sharp and sudden
increase in the number of Caribbean immigrants to the United
States; and, the accompanying alarmist outcries from certain
elements in this society to such an increase, which is often
assumed to be largely illegal and competitive.
In the majority, the papers in this volume were prepared

by scholars of Caribbean ancestry or who are indeed immigrants
themselves. As a sub-group, they have suffered special forms of

invisibility in the past -- apart from that which they have
suffered along with the larger group of which they are a part.
Of course, their works tend to be treated with the same general
disregard that the policy-making sector directs to the academic
community. However, within that latter community itself, they
suffer the special denial of outlet, opportunity, legitimacy,
and weight reserved for most scholars from so-called minority
groups. This, then, further reduces their potential for appeal-
ing to important elements of the policy- and decision-making
sectors in this country and even in their countries of origin.
Yet, immigration is a phenomenon with which Caribbean-originated
scholars are intimately acquainted; it is an issue and subject
which many have approached with deep professional and political
concern even prior to its recent resurgence in prominence among
Through this collection of papers RIIES wishes to provide
the readership with a glimpse of the range of thought and
profundity of concern held by many Caribbean immigrant scholars.
They neither complete the spectrum of positions nor represent the
full breadth of thinking on any given position. The first
section is comprised of four papers prepared by members of the
Institute staff or participants in its seminars; the second
contains solicited papers and commentaries by some of the
Caribbean-originated scholars now involved in on-going research
about West Indian immigrants or related subjects; and, the third
section is a selective bibliography of recent works in the field.
Hopefully, both the subject matter herein discussed and the
individuals whose ideas are expounded will be seriously consid-
ered in the deliberations now taking place on the proper role of
the United States in the face of continued migration of Caribbean
peoples to its cities and countryside.
RIIES feels deep indebtedness to many persons who
contributed to the completion of this manuscript. It here
expresses sincere gratitude to Mrs. Constance M. Trombley for her
constant commitment to maintaining the highest degree of excel-
lence and professionalism. Appreciation is also extended to Mrs.
Bernice Abram and Mr. Joseph Freeman, respectively, of the

Smithsonian Personnel Division and Duplicating Division, and,
to Ms. Joyce Mortimer of the Overseas Liaison Committee of the
American Council on Education for consultative services as we

endeavored to complete this manuscript.
Neither the above nor any of the statements which follow

represent official policy or opinion of the Smithsonian
Institution. The editors and their fellow contributors hold
sole responsibility for their collective and individual works.

Roy S. Bryce-Laporte

Delores M. Mortimer

The United States Role In Caribbean Migration:
Background To the Problem'

Roy S. Bryce-Laporte

The most comprehensive definition of the
Caribbean region is a geographical delineation which
includes all the islands located in the Caribbean Sea
and the Atlantic littoral of mainland countries whose
shores are touched by its waters. Technically, this
area is referred to as the circum-Caribbean and may
sometimes be extended as far west as the Mexican rim
of the Gulf, south to the eastern shorelines of Brazil
and northwest to embrace Bermuda and parallel rimlands
and islands on the North American coastline. The
general characteristics of the nations and territories
of the area include small, powerless yet developing
countries with a background of colonial plantation
slave systems. Further, the economies are still
dominated by single cash-crops or raw products of
basic commodities, service establishments, and foreign
investments. Also, for the most part, there is a
preponderance of people with noticeable African and/or
European ancestors superimposed over an almost extinct
Amerindian rural type intermingled with Asians, Jews,
Arabs, and other Old World ethnic groupings, thus
representing various combinations of racial mixtures.
The area's friendly, cosmopolitan, but generally
poor, people reflect plural cultures, creolized
languages, and are involved in the deepest throes and
ferment for economic and political self-determination.

The inter-relationship between the Caribbean
territories, especially the islands, and the United
States pre-dates the revolution of 1776. From colonial
times through the Civil War the islands constituted
an important vertex of the triangular Atlantic trade
between England, its North American colonies, and its
Caribbean holdings. West Indian plantations produced
sugar, molasses, spices and rum; gold and jewelry were
amassed by raiding English buccaneers who plundered
the Spanish Main; and slaves were seasoned for use on
the plantations of English colonial North America.
The islands also played an important role as a refer-
ence point in the anxieties and deliberations which
North Americans experienced as they debated the ethics,
efficacy, and the economics of slavery, and later, of
The shocking success of the Haitian slave
revolution, which resulted in the second independent
state in the Americas; the calculated emancipation of
slaves in the British Caribbean following a four-year
period of apprenticeship; the contemplations of Lincoln
as well as Delaneyand other influential Ameri-
cans who saw parts of the Central American coastline
and the Caribbean islands as targets for black coloni-
zation schemes; and actual settlement by small groups
of black freedmen in the area represent early forms of
special meaningfulness that the Caribbean area has had
for the United States.
Perhaps the first official declaration by the
United States of special interest in the area took the-
form of the Monroe Doctrine, which purported to
prevent further colonization of the continent by
European powers. However, later treaties, policies,
and attitudes emerged which not only stabilized the
colonial relationship of given areas to given metro-
politan states, but elevated the United States to the
level of a colonial power as it acquired territories,

proclaimed protectorates, exercised rights of inter-
vention and negotiated rights of transit in the area.
The advances made under a conviction of
Manifest Destiny, victories in the Spanish-American
War, and the practices of "Big Stick" policy had very
clear and telling impacts in the shaping of the
history and development of the Caribbean area. With
United States acquisition of the Panama Canal and the
establishment of banana and other plantation or
business systems by American overseas companies in
various parts of the region, the islands acquired a
new importance within the United States imperialist
system. They became a protective flank for its
southern underbelly and its Central American inter-
ests. Since then, the area has gained an incomparable
reputation as the target of a wide assortment of
American interventions and, by the Second World War,
it was to be the host of a multitude of bases and the
United States military might.
In fact, the wider Caribbean region still
comprises the only overseas area in the hemisphere
with large de jure American dependencies, operating
civilian American settlement colonies or military
enclaves which are subordinated to American Federal
regulations and distorted versions of American culture
and institutional systems. In most cases, native
peoples and alien immigrants are utilized largely as
work force, deprived of full American citizenship
rights, and suffer discrimination and stigmatization
which effect their status with their regional peers.
American and alien populations housed or employed in
such jurisdictions receive the wrath, envy, distrust,
and disdain of their native cohorts. Yet they are
treasured as consumers by merchants, sources of
revenue by government, and added financial support by
relatives and friends.
This situation is further complicated because

for some time in their early development such American
enclaves and jurisdictions represented significant centers
of employment, facilities, services, and standards not
duplicable by the local national governments. Hence,
there has developed a similar ambivalent response by the
host nations to the settlements and enterprises. In that
sense, problems the U.S. had encountered in the use of
the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra as bombing
targets represent similar extremes of the problems posed
by Chaguaramas, Guantanamo, the Canal Zone, and Puerto Rico.
Thus, there already exists a special historical
United States attitude toward and impact on the Caribbean,
which at least implicitly represents a policy, hopefully,
of the past. A glance backward suggests that not all but
certainly many of the policies and attitudes of the United
States toward the Caribbean were based largely on the
simple, clear objective of protecting and advancing U.S.
interests. Whatever benefits or improvements accruedto
the Caribbean states (in return for the special services
or resources they were conceived to offer to the United
States) were largely incidental or compensatory in nature.
However, the one-sided nature of this situation had as
much to do with the stagnated colonial status in which
most of the islands were found until recently, and a
history of both a limited notion of development and a
myopic view of governmental commitment or public account-
ability in the so-called independent states of the region.
The Caribbean region of today increasingly is
becoming one of emergent nations, developing economies,
and politicized populations. It seems fair to anticipate-
that the relations between the United States and these
countries will not decline but will be intensified and
become more delicate. The saliency of America's potential
proximity and, in some cases, its presence has heightened
and spread among all sectors and corners of the region.
Whatever the reactions to this saliency, they do not
involve disregard. The United States can expect greater

demands and more intricate designs to be made upon
it as Caribbean peoples become more assertive in attempting
to define the North American rl8e within their programs
for self and national interests.
Any effort to formulate or execute a regional
policy by the United States in the Caribbean must take
into account not only this historical perspective, but
contemporary complexities which underlie the region.
Despite its many commonalities, the Caribbean must also
be seen as a region comprised of states with different
levels of political development stemming from varying
historical colonial ties and, in recent years, some new
structures of government and new directions or emerging
economies, political ideologies, and diplomatic postures.
Such complexities minimize the utility of a definition
based simply on geographical delineations.
A more appropriate breakdown would have to
include (1) the independent island states of the Bahamas,
Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Trinidad-
Tobago, Grenada as well as Guyana and Surinam which are
located on the South American mainland; (2) the various
island dependencies, including Belice and French Guiana,
which operate as non-sovereign states or subdivisions of
larger metropolitan systems located outside the Caribbean
area, i.e., the United States, Great Britain, France and
Holland; and (3) on occasion, those independent mainland
states whose offshore islands and Atlantic littoral are
closely related to states in the first two categories
because of overlapping populations, culture, trade,
communication, ethnic identity and growing consciousness
of mutual economic and political interests, vis-a-vis the
United States.
Finally, a special case must be made for Cuba
which, in addition to being an independent island state,
represents a socialist revolutionary government with unique
ties with the Soviet Union rather than the traditional

capitalist metropoles of the West. Cuba does not merely
provide inspirational and subtle support for leftist
regimes and revolutionary forces in the region; it also
explicitly competes with the United States as a model
and center of political influence in the Caribbean -- as
each has tried to isolate the other as undesirous and
unnecessary to any larger inter-American community of
nations. These complexities will have consequences for
any attempt by the United States to engage in negotiations,
treaties, policy implementations, and monitoring of
international agreements in the region.
A specific issue of common concern to the
Caribbean is population growth and its associated economic
and political problems. Whereas these are still viewable
as projected challenges for the future in the United
States and some of the mainland states of the Caribbean
region, they are perceived as a dilemma facing most of
the islands at the present time. Among various approaches
tried by Caribbean peoples and their governments in
response to the economic imbalance are (1) family planning
and birth control programs, (2) economic development,
(3) tourism, and (4) voluntary migration.
Since the beginning of the last decade (actually
just following the Cuban revolution) the Caribbean area
has been contributing an increasing number of "immigrants"
(very broadly defined) to the American territories --
the continental United States, Puerto Rico, and the
Virgin Islands. Some of these people are of legal
status, others are not; some locate permanently in the
latter areas, but many utilize these islands as stopovers
to settle finally in the continental United States. And,
the two islands themselves provide a substantial number of
immigrants (sociologically defined) to the mainland.
In fact, voluntary migration has been a traditional
characteristic of Caribbean people since the middle of the
last century. It has been directed toward areas of

employment in times of economic difficulty and to places
with political flexibility during times of governmental
crisis. It may well be that a migration-mobility syndrome
has been absorbed into the ethos of the Caribbean people
and is an inadvertent policy of their governments. Both
the movement and its syndrome are selective, however.
Whether inter- or intraregional, they generally entailed
as ultimate targets the traditional capitalist metropolitan
states of Europe and North America. Sometimes, the
intermediate targets were islands or mainland countries
of relatively higher development or standards of living
in the region, which are themselves satellites of
the very same metropoles. Seen from this perspective
Caribbean people are pulled and displaced by conditions,
forces and activities emanating from the target societies.
Also being suggested is a coexistence of a counterpart to
the syndrome and at least in ambivalence in policy of the
metropolitan target societies to movement of peoples from
the Caribbean. Such complexity and dynamics of these
perceptions across boundaries, the manner in which they
impinge upon international relations, the exchange of
resources (human and otherwise) between the Caribbean and
the United States, and the policy implications of all this
are the subjects which demand thorough understanding.
Early migration of Jamaicans to the hemispheric
mainland under American auspices began with construction
of the Panama Railroad in the 1840's. George Roberts, the
West Indian demographer, indicates that 146,000 Jamaicans
alone left the islands for other parts of the continent at
the turn of the century, 46,000 going to the United States
and the remainder to Panama, Cuba, and Central America to
provide labor for American-owned enterprises. Between 1820
and 1970, about one million (2 percent) of the legal immi-
grants into the U.S. were from the non-Latin West Indies.
R.B. Davidson indicates that 82,084 British West Indians
left the islands for the United Kingdom between 1950 and
1960. George Beckford estimates 280,000 persons to have

emigrated from the English Caribbean between 1960-1970.
In 1960, there were 265,398 immigrants in this
country, 14,047 (5 percent) from the Caribbean islands,
including Cuba and the Dominican Republic, but not Puerto
Rico or the American Virgin Islands. By 1965 the United
States Congress had passed its most recent comprehensive
immigration law by which the single-nation quota system
was replaced by hemispheric ceilings. For the first
time independent countries of the Western Hemisphere
would undergo a general limitation on the movement
of their populations into the United States. At the same
time, however, some of the Caribbean countries which had
experienced a regional limitation of 800 per year due to
the McCarran Act were to be relieved as they became
independent. Thus, the new American law, the emergence of
new nations in the Caribbean and, of course, the reclassi-
fication of large numbers of Cuban refugees as residents
resulted in a dramatic rise in the number of Caribbean
immigrants in the U.S.6
In 1970, of 373,326 immigrants to this country,
65,521 (18 percent) were from the same set of islands.
The number of legal immigrants from the area had more
than quadrupled itself and its proportion had tripled
with Cuba, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic each
sending more than 10,000 legal immigrants to the United
States' shores.
By 1973, there were 64,765 (16 percent) immigrants
from the Caribbean. And, in 1974, there were 394,861
immigrants of whom 61,284 (16 percent) were West Indians.
Even if this may be indicative of a leveling off of
Caribbean immigrants to the United States, it represents
an astounding number or proportion to the total group of
immigrants entering the country legally with permanent
resident status. State Department information suggests
that the interests of Caribbean peoples to enter and the
probability of their entry into the United States continue

to run high. The data show that 43,572 immigrant and
90,457 non-immigrant visas were issued to applicants
from the independent states of the Caribbean in 1972,
as respectively compared to 40,009 immigrant and
137,747 non-immigrant in 1974.7
Political crises in Cuba, Haiti, and the
Dominican Republic have contributed to major waves of
refugees, and some have since become legal residents
and even citizens of the United States. Puerto Ricans
and Virgin Islanders, both Caribbean people but United
States citizens as well, came in the thousands each year
as migrants and settlers to the mainland. And, from
Mexico, Central America, Panama, Colombia, and Venezuela
came others, thousands of whom one cannot verify as being
from the Caribbean littoral or of Caribbean ancestry.
In addition to those Caribbean immigrants who
entered the country legally as resident aliens, or have
since then obtained such status, there are many others
residing here as legal non-immigrants, 403,299 of whom
were from the Caribbean islands. The 1972 statistics show
a total of 5,171,460 non-immigrants legally in the country,
484,340 of whom were from the Caribbean islands. The 1974
figures on illegal immigrants are less reliable. Reports
estimate two to eight million-illegal immigrants, mostly of
Latin extraction, with the circum-Caribbean being a major
A total of 311 persons from the independent states
of the Caribbean were deported, and 4,943 more of them
were forced to depart in 1974. Perhaps hidden in these
figures are persons who viewed themselves as temporary
or circulatory immigrants anyway. (Between 1965 and
1974, a total of 6,285 West Indians including Belice and
Guyana were deported from the United States constituting,
about 6 percent of the total deported population). And,
the order of top three sources and overwhelming reasons
for deportation of these people remained constant. In
descending order the leading sources were Jamaica, Dominican
Republic, Trinidad-Tobago and Belice. It is significant

that the overwhelming number of cases involving Carib-
bean people were categorized by immigration officials as
those who "failed to maintain or comply with conditions
of non-immigrant status," those who entered without
inspection or by false statements, and those who entered
without proper documents. This usually means that they
were found working without permission or that when caught
they were discovered to have entered the country illegally
in order to obtain gainful employment. To this end, it
was instructive that most of the Caribbean migrants were
not expelled as security risks, vagrants, wards of the
state, insane, incapacitated, addicts or criminals.
At present, Cubans constitute a very small
number of illegal immigrants or deportees, which may be
largely due to their special refugee status. However, with
the recent cessation of the airlift program and despite
the anti-hijacking agreements, it will be interesting to
see if a noticeable increase in illegal immigration and
deportation will occur among them. Also, it should be
interesting.to see whether large-scale Cuban immigration
to the Soviet Union or other industrialized socialist
countries will take place in the near future. As for the
present, with the exception of Yugoslavia and Poland, there
seems to be no comparable massive movement of immigrants
among the socialist countries. The heavy movement of
refugees from East Germany and Hungary and streams of
Jews from the Soviet Union to Austria and Israel are
similarly more politically than economically motivated
and compare with the exodus of Cubans in the earlier
period of the Castro government. Whether the absence of
voluntary movement from Cuba is a result of government
restriction, economic satisfaction, political accommodation,
or lack of personal resources is not presently known and
constitutes an important item for research.
The experience with illegal Latin American
immigrants and political refugees shows that unilateral
action is not sufficient to prevent the onrush. If
political or economic reasons should prompt the United
States (or Canada) to close its ports and borders to
such immigrants, other political or economic reasons

will obligate local governments not to discourage the exodus.
'Without the movement there could be violent explosions
,throughout the Caribbean archipelago in a few decades. And,
the United States (and Canada) would have to be prepared
to confront the kinds of difficulties presented by massive
streams of refugees, rather than mere waves of immigrants,
from its southern neighbors. In addition, such explosive
situations could have the potential of re-entangling the
United States and other Eastern and Western metropolitan
states in the politics of blatant intervention and causing
regression in the present development of and aspirations for
independence in the Caribbean.
At present, emigration is viewed ambivalently as
both problem and solution from the Caribbean perspective.
No clear conclusions have been arrived at as yet as to
whether it constitutes a safety valve or brain drain, a
desired investment or necessary loss, potential legacy or
perpetual linkages. In each case, perhaps, it represents
both. Even if one but not the other, it demands carefully
thought out policies and the preparedness to meet with their
respective results.
For the United States this new immigration also
poses serious dilemmas, particularly that movement from
the Caribbean with its very special history and potential
for future complications. It has brought to the forefront,
once more, the historical strain which exists between the
myth of egalitarianism and open door reception toward
foreigners and the fluctuating tides of racist and exclu-
sionary sentiments which have characterized immigration
laws and politics of this country from its formative periods.
It challenges the accuracy of claims regarding the saturation
state of the job market, and the prudence of policies of
limited employment and zero population growth. It questions
the sagacity of cutting off at this time what has been a
traditional source of new talent, new ties, new cultural
enrichment, and new citizens in an ever-cosmopolitanizing

Also, the new immigration complicates the task of
responding to the political demands of national minorities
and poor sub-populations for more effective service and
rapid, equal and meaningful participation in the economic
and political mainstream. Yet, based upon sensitivities
derived from their own ethnic experiences in the U.S.,many
of these minorities would be torn by feelings of victimiza-
tion to further unfair and discriminatory practices if
restrictive measures, continued exploitation or special
penalties were directed at potential emigres -- even to
protect opportunities for said national minorities. Moreover,
despite the felt and confirmed challenge that the increasing
presence of new aliens may represent and the alarming out-
cry against it from certain quarters, it is quite obvious
that beyond the commonly accepted motives and misconcep-
tions which may have brought them here, there are (1) objec-
tive aspects of the American economy which are also re-
sponsible for their presence; and (2) sectors of that
economy which rely and capitalize on the immigrants' presence.
Finally, some governments and parties in the
source countries rely upon the departure of these immigrants
and on the relief or returns which may follow. Further, the
current movement of peoples from the Caribbean to the
United States is not simply a matter of the "pull" of
curiosity, ambition, sentimental ties, or the search for
opportunity, safety and better living conditions. The
movement also reflects the "push" of structual economic
and political limitations within the source countries and
various combinations or levels of "push"and "pull" resulting
from the many systemic inequalities between such countries
and the United States. These various levels of subjective
and objective determinants are not always recognized or
expressed by immigrants, admitted by representatives of
governments, or consciously inter-related by scholars.
There is also reason to believe that there is greater
compatibility between perceptions and the contextual

realities of migrant experiences than might be indicated in
some of the following papers. This, too, is a matter for
further objective analysis within a broad interpretive
Thus, American efforts to deal intelligently with
the new immigration from the Caribbean requires a fuller
understanding of the larger role of the United States in
the economic development and international relations of
the region. Moreover, it requires a commitment to re-
evaluate that role candidly and drastically change it if
that is deemed necessary. In doing so it will be desirable
to hold an exhaustive hearing of learned and public opinions
and carry out a comprehensive examination of the important
implications of various levels of policy decision and
public action-- international, national and local --
which relate to the new immigration and its meaning for
the future of this society, the participant peoples and
nations, and the future relations among them all.


1This is an excerpt from a larger article entitled, .
"Redefining the Role of the United States in Caribbean _
Migration and Development," in Basil A. Ince, ed.,V/ ^"
Contemporary International Relations in the Caribbean, Kingston, .
University of the West Indies, Institute of International
Relations, 1975. For related works by the author, see
United States-Caribbean Policy, Part I, Hearings before the Sub-
Committee on Inter-American Affairs of the Committee on Foreign
Affairs, House of Representatives, Ninety-third Congress,
Second Session, September 19 and 21, 1973. Washington, D.C.:
United States Government Printing Office, 1974. Reprinted in
Continuities, New York: C.U.N.Y., Black Studies Depratment,
Spring, 1975.

2George Roberts, The Population of Jamica. Cambridge
University Press, 1957. See also Hubert J. Charles,
"Patterns of West Indian Emigration, 1880-1970,"
mimeographed paper presented at the Atlantic History
and Culture Seminar, Johns Hopkins University, 1976.

3R. B. Davidson, West Indian Migrants. London: Oxford
University Press, 1962.

4George Beckford, "Socio-Economic Change and Political
Continuity in the English Caribbean," (unpublished);
Hilbourne Watson, "Migration and the Political Economy
of Underdevelopment: Notes on the Commonwealth
Caribbean Situation," (unpublished).

5All statistics on Caribbean immigration, deportation
and naturalization obtained from the U.S. Department of
Justice, Annual Reports on Immigration and Naturalization
Service. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing
Office, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974.

6R. S. Bryce-Laporte, "The New Immigrants: Their

Origins, Visibility and Challenges to the American
Public: Impact of the Immigration Act of 1962"
(unpublished). See also Forsythe article in this

7Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, United States
Department of State, Report of the Visa Office.
Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing
Office, 1973.

International Migration and the Political Economy of
Underdevelopment: Aspects of the Commonwealth
Caribbean Situation*

Hilbourne A. Watson


This study primarily deals with emigration
from the English-speaking Caribbean to the United
States. As used herein the concept of migration of
labor (export of labor) does not necessarily include
students and dependents, although it is our view that
the reasons why individuals from these two categories
also emigrate are bound up with the general problem of
underdevelopment. The concepts of migration of labor
and export of labor will be used interchangeably,
although the latter has a more forceful and direct
application. Export of labor as a term connotes a
consciously rational policy designed and executed at
the governmental level. Further, it may also be
viewed as a policy which, even if engineered by
private interests, obtains the support (direct or
indirect) of the governments of the labor exporting
underdeveloped countries and the labor importing
developed countries.
It must be pointed out that we are not

*Revised version of paper prepared for the Research
Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies of the
Smithsonian Institution for presentation to the panel
on "International Migration as a Policy Issue: The
Western Hemisphere," XVII Annual Convention of the
International Studies Association, Toronto, Canada,
25-28 February 1976, chaired by Dr. Roy Bryce-Laporte.

attempting to state that migration as a process
involves the one-way movement of people from underde-
veloped to developed countries. Historical evidence
confirms that many skilled persons have emigrated from
developed countries to the underdeveloped areas so as
to found colonies and establish and operate mines,
plantations, manufacturing industries, banks, hotels
and other concerns belonging to multinational (monopo-
ly) enterprises based in the former countries. Our
concern is particularly with the context in which
migration takes place from underdeveloped capitalist
countries of the so-called periphery to the developed
capitalist countries of the center. The migrants'
conceptions and interpretations of why they emigrate
are in and of themselves important topics of research.
However, the nature of this particular study limits us,
at this stage, to helping to generate ideas that can
be applied to the development of a general set of
theories relating to examination of Commonwealth
Caribbean political economy.
Before proceeding it is necessary to discuss,
briefly, some of the concepts which are central to the
line of thought developed in this study.
Governmental support for export of labor is
based on social, political, economic and monetary
considerations. Unemployment is at one and the same
time a social and an economic problem. Failure to
solve this dilemma can lead to serious political
difficulties including unrest that might create problems
for the political order. This is not to say that the
political dimensions of the problem begin to emerge
only when the political order is being directly
challenged. The point is that the unemployment dilem-
ma is rooted in basic political decisions that are
made in order to pursue a given economic policy on
industrialization, for example. If the economy must
divert scarce resources to maintain the unemployed,the

social costs become more apparent since these costs
carry fundamental implications for economic planning
in underdeveloped capitalist societies. While the
export of labor helps to regularize the problemit
does not solve it. It is probably the remittances
that are received by dependents that have the most
positive monetary impact. These remittances tend to
help the government in the form of additional foreign
West Indian governments pursue population and
employment policies that include conscious and ration-
alized efforts to export a portion of their population
including working people and dependents. Our main
argument is that this export of labor and the policy
that informs it are part of that phenomenon we call
underdevelopment. Even if it is taken for granted
that working people (and we use this term to include
all people who must sell their labor power in order to
survive) emigrate from underdeveloped countries in
search of better employment and training opportuni-
ties, it is still necessary to identify the contextual
basis of this emigration. Such an attempt at identi-
fication cannot be undertaken in isolation from the
developed capitalist countries with which the underde-
veloped countries are linked to form the world
capitalist system. Hence, underdevelopment and
development within international capitalism are two
sides of the same coin. Concretely, therefore,
emigration from underdeveloped countries to developed
countries is a reflection of the nature and direction
of the process of accumulation on a world scale.
In qualitative terms, to appreciate the nature and
direction of world capitalist accumulation we must
first come to grips with the problem of the interna-
tional division of labor. An appreciation of this
phenomenon is indispensable for an understanding of
the problem under consideration. The present epoch

of capitalist imperialism has seen production struc-
tures from imperialist countries exporting technology
to underdeveloped countries. This occurence, however,
should not be allowed to result in a fixation upon
form thereby causing a failure to understand the
content hidden behind the form. In other words, one
must be mindful of the qualitative and quantitative
relationships that exist between interconnected
phenomena. More specifically, the export of produc-
tion structures to underdeveloped countries by monopo-
ly capital should be seen in terms of the competition
between capitalists and imperialists to gain further
control of markets, resources and profits in the host
countries. Therefore, despite the apparent redirec-
tion of the process of accumulation toward the under-
developed countries, the fact remains that such a
phenomenon does not expose the essence -- that technology,
capital, and know-how bear monopoly capitalist
patents and are sources that augment exploitation of
labor for profits. In most of these instances the
host countriesrather than being importers of foreign
capital, generate profits within their borders on
indigenous capital to further accelerate the process
of accumulation on a world scale, a process in which
the qualitative advantage works in favor of the
capitalist class in the economies of the center.
From World War I to the end of World War II
large numbers of West Indians migrated to the United
States. In general this kind of immigration helped
to alleviate the labor shortages that existed in the
U. S. economy. Many of these West Indian immigrants,
along with Afro-Americans from the southern United
States' "Black Belt" and European laborers worked in
northern factories and contributed to the war effort.
During World War II alone about 100,000 British West
Indians were recruited and sent to the U. S. to work
as factory and farm laborers.l Since that period

several emigration schemes were developed with the
cooperation of West Indian and metropolitan govern-
ments (U. S., Britain and Canada). Through these
labor export schemes West Indian governments have
provided labor for factories, plantations, transporta-
tion, and household requirements (domestics).
Within the last fifteen years the categories
of laborers that emigrate from the Caribbean have been
expanded to include large numbers of professional,
technical and other skilled, semi-skilled and unskill-
ed workers (doctors, nurses, engineers, technicians,
cabinet makers, carpenters, masons, gardeners and for
example). The fact that Commonwealth Caribbean
countries have been referred to as "labor exporting
economies" speaks to the emigration of a sizeable
portion of the active labor force of these economies.
Emigration schemes and other forms of active support
for emigration have become essential features of what
passes for population/employment policy in the Common-
wealth Caribbean.

The Contextual Situation

The point of departure for a concrete analysis
of the problem of migration must reflect an under-
standing of the international division of labor
between the two basic components of the world capital-
ist system. The dynamic of this world capitalist
system that is made up of exploited underdeveloped
countries, and the more or less developed capitalist
countries peripheral formation and formations of the
center -- is the process referred to as "accumulation
on a world scale." The nature of this international
division of labor between these two basic components
can be seen from the distribution of economic roles
and functions: primary production in the "periphery"
under foreign domination with the external market

dominating the economic process, and the production of
producer goods, manufactures, technology and related
services in the economies of the center with the
dominance of the internal market as the dynamic
West Indian countries belong among these so-
called "peripheral capitalist formations" and have
exported labor under conditions of chronic structural
unemployment. The governments of these countries are
fundamentally of the neo-colonial type. In capitalist
economies -- underdeveloped as well as developed --
the laws of commodity production predominate and, in
this respect, the main difference between center and
periphery lies in how these laws operate based upon
differences in the level of development of the produc-
tive forces, the nature of ownership of the means of
production and the general nature of the operational
relations between these two components of the world
Reference to the two components of the world
capitalist system -- center and periphery -- does not
restrict or eliminate the phenomenon of the class
struggle. Division into center and periphery helps to
dramatize the workings of imperialism specifically
with respect to the international division of labor
and accumulation on a world scale. Samir Amin pro-
vides a very useful characterization and analysis of
the two components of the capitalist world system. He
argues that what is distinctive about the monopoly
capitalist socioeconomic formations is not merely the
dominance of the capitalist mode of production but the
dynamic of the internal market and the tendency for
the capitalist mode of production to become exclusive.
In these socioeconomic formations we, therefore, tend
to find one mode of production -- capitalism -- which
then becomes one with the existing socioeconomic
formation itself. On the other hand, Amin argues that

the dominance of capitalism in the periphery does not
lead to its exclusiveness, since it is the external
market which provides the dynamics for whatever growth
takes place. It is this dependence on the external
market for economic growth and the absence of an
exclusive capitalist mode of production in socioeco-
nomic formations of the periphery that permits pre-
capitalist modes of production to co-exist with
capitalism in a more or less deformed and distorted
condition.3 Thus, within the capitalist world system,
capitalism predominates. But, by means of the imperialist
nexus, capitalism appears in developed forms as well as
underdeveloped forms.
This situation leads Amin to speak of socio-
economic formations of the periphery as formations
which continue to experience a blockage in the process
of transition. This outlook breaks very sharply with
the conventional wisdom as reflected in that body of
literature known as the bourgeois sociology of devel-
opment. This ahistorical sociology of development
views underdevelopment as a passing stage in the
historical evolution of the countries of the periphery;
a stage already passed through by the technologi-
cally advanced nations. The outlook with which Amin
is associated views underdevelopment as a phenomenon
that is produced and reproduced and one which belongs
within the dialectical process of world capitalism.
As far as the literature on Caribbean economy
is concerned, W. Arthur Lewi5 is clearly identified
with the ahistorical conventional view while others
including Lloyd Best and George Beckford have provided
useful insights in their work on "plantation economy"
-- insights which suggest that underdevelopment is
also a dynamic process. This can be gleaned from
their notions of "metropole and hinterland" and
"continuity in change" in the plantation framework.6
Their contribution, when given the necessary dialectical

reformulation, is helpful to an understanding of the
relationship between the problem of underdevelopment and
international migration.

Incomplete Perspectives on the Problem

A number of perspectives on the problem of inter-
national migration from the "periphery" to the "center"
have been developed by various scholars. Among these
perspectives is Hla Myint's "less alarmist view." Though
Myint is concerned with the so-called "brain drain" (export
of skilled and professional workers from the periphery to
the center) his treatment of the problem can be extended
to cover other categories of workers. In this context
Myint seems preoccupied with the market mechanism as the
regulator and allocator of resources including labor
(labor resources tend to gravitate toward places where
employment is available). Clearly the market mechanism
cannot really tell us why workers emigrate in the first
place because the causal factors for this situation are
internal to the underdeveloped economies while the
conditioning factors are both internal and external. More
than that, it does not address the problem of the causes
of underdevelopment with which this kind of international
migration is associated. This problem as well as the
answer to it can be grasped only when we proceed from a
clear understanding of the nature of the international
division of labor. However Myint, for conceptual and
ideological reasons, is unable to come to grips with the
dialectics of the process of world capitalism with its
structural inequalities in international production,
exchange and distribution. In this specific context it
also reflects his failure to come to terms with the
dialectics of underdevelopment and real conditions in
the periphery.
However, it is interesting that analysis of the prob-
lem of migration from periphery to center has been associated
with more general studies dealing with the relationship between

population policy and economic development:
population pressure/capital accumulation/investment/
economic growth.7 The general concerns of population
policy and economic development studies as these
relate to migration originate from the common
epistemological foundation and the accompanying false
consciousness that is so dominant in bourgeois social
science, in this case "economistic science" (economics).
It reflects the relationship between neo-classical
synthesis and conventional underdevelopment theory.
That is why underdevelopment is misunderstood and
misstudied and that is also why appearances always
seem to dominate essence with form prevailing over

In our view migration from the periphery
is related to internal unemployment which must be
explained in terms of how capitalism functions in
those countries. Factors such as the nature of
ownership of essential means of production, the
level of development of productive forces, how surplus
is used and where it accumulates, the major
beneficiaries of capital accumulation and investment
and the nature of the state, must all be taken into

The way in which the market mechanism works
in these economies cannot really be explained
separately from problems associated with under-
development, dependence and economic openness of
these economies; in a word, it is linked to the role
and function of these economies in the international
capitalist division of labor and production. In
effect, the fact that these economies depend for
such dynamism as they have experienced upon externally
oriented growth strategies also suggests their
secondary position in the process of "accumulation on
a world scale."

The Commonwealth Caribbean Situation

The economies of the Commonwealth Caribbean
are underdeveloped capitalist economies -- peripheral
formations -- which may also be classified as mixed
export economies: mineral, plantation, tourist and
peasant characteristics predominate according to
country or groups of countries. For the most part,
foreign domination and ownership of the essential
means of production has been a fact of life and it has
been dominance of the "overseas sector" (foreign
capitalist sector) over the so-called "residentiary
sector" that has accounted for the weakness and
parasitism of the latter. The low level of transac-
tions and the marginal quality of those transactions
between the two sectors is a feature of underdeveloped
economies where growth is based on the external
market. It is not surprising that the major contribu-
tion of the overseas sector to internal economic
activity has come in the form of payment to government
of taxes and royalties and payment of wages and
salaries to workers.
The problems of unemployment, underemployment
and the generally low level of the development of the
productive forces in these economies, are all related
to the nature of the existing socioeconomic formation.
Foreign ownership within the existing mode of produc-
tion is also an important contributing factor. Ra-
tionalization of the use of resources stems from the
profit objective of the capitalists and also deter-
mines the kind of production technique that is
employed. Therefore, the employment of sophisticated
technology in industry, ongoing capitalist rationali-
zation of agriculture (sugar industry) via mechaniza-
tion, the relatively low employment-generating
capabilities of the hotel and manufacturing sectors
and the low level of the mobility of labor, point to

features of the struggle between capital and labor
under capitalism. For the capitalist to realize a
higher profit, ways must be found to reduce the wage
of the worker relative to his own profit. Since the
growth of the power of labor unions has tended to rule
out the traditional methods of extending the length of
the working day or reducing the wage rate, the capi-
talist has had to turn to the use of more sophisticat-
ed techniques: he seeks to raise the productivity of
the worker by employing more machinery and fewer
workers. The main effect of this in underdeveloped
primary-producing export economies is to reduce the
demand for labor in production.
Employment opportunities in the so-called
traditional export sectors -- sugar, oil, bauxite --
fluctuate and appear to be contracting while the new
staples -- manufacturing (import substitution indus-
tries) and tourism -- are not providing levels of
employment required to absorb new entrants into the
labor force. We must also bear in mind that the so-
called residentiary sector is weak, parasitic and
pays relatively low wages and with wages also tending
to be fairly low in some other sectors. The histor-
ical tendency in these countries has been (and this in
spite of migration) toward the existence of a more or
less permanent "reserve army of unemployed." Best,
Levitt and Beckford have provided useful insights into
the problems of plantation economy and their concept
of "plantation economy further modified" contain
positive implications for the theory of underdevelop-
ment as we perceive it.
Primary production characteristics help to
explain why Caribbean economic growth and development
have not been based on an internally propelled growth
model. Also, the absence of a self-sustaining capi-
talism, and autocentric and exclusive capitalist forma-
tion, calls into question every aspect of postwar

capitalist economic growth strategy developed in the
Commonwealth Caribbean.
It seems clear, therefore, that any reasonable
discussion of the problem of emigration from the
peripheral capitalist countries to the developed
capitalist countries must begin with an understanding
of the phenomena we have been discussing. The exist-
ence of so-called "surplus labor" and "unlimited
supplies of labor" is not a natural occurence. None
of this can be understood outside of the context of
the nature and operation of the mode of production.
It is incorrect to begin by perceiving an effect as
the cause of a real problem. It should also be
obvious, at least during the present period, that our
primary production system, the new expanding sectors,
the import substitution industries which have not been
able to transform the consumer habits of the upper
class and petty bourgeois elements (in whose favor the
distribution of income discriminates) and the export
of surplus value as profits are features that stand
in the way of the development of a dynamic employment-
creating economy.
In order for an economy to provide real
productive employment, there must be a clear material
and objective relationship between production and real
income. Unfortunately, this kind of relationship has
not generally characterized most of the government and
private sector spending and economic activity in the
Commonwealth Caribbean. This applies to the more
depressed economies of the so-called Less Developed
Countries (LDCs) and also to the MDCs. Thus, unem-
ployment in these countries and the traditional
practice of encouraging emigration as a safety valve
for regulating unemployment are logical outgrowths and
features of the political economy of underdevelopment
in these peripheral capitalist formations. The
solution of the population and unemployment problem is

bound up with the solution of the underdevelopment
problem. It was partly the failure to realize this
that led W. Arthur Lewis, over a decade ago, to arrive
at the erroneous conclusion that economic development
creates or can create unemployment.10 (But, of
course, Lewis could scarely have concluded otherwise
especially since he was performing the function of
idealogue and apologist.) Many of his assumptions
were made with little or no regard to the foundation
of the concrete problems in the economies he was
studying. Clearly, then, this perspective which is
rooted in the notion of "economic dualism" does not
enable us to come to grips with the emigration prob-
lem. It should be understood that we do not mean to
suggest that the foreign countries to which the
migrants go are not involved in promoting or encourag-
ing immigration. In fact, immigration helps to reduce
if not to remove certain critical shortages of skills
in these economies from time to time. Nonetheless, to
claim that economic development creates unemployment
and to argue that this unemployment is linked to the
malfunctioning of the social system is to demonstrate
the height of the false consciousness of "economistic"
Another dimension that has not been given
adequate consideration is that which involves the type
of relationship existing between labor organizations
and political parties in the neo-colonial countries of
the Commonwealth Caribbean. It is our view that this
relationship is critical to the understanding of how
both these governments and the labor unions approach
and deal with the critical unemployment problem.
Throughout these countries political parties are
either directly affiliated with labor unions, as oc-
curs in Jamaica and Guyana, or there is a close
working understanding between the unions and the
government as occurs in Barbados, for example. But,

further, in all of these countries control of the
working class labor organizations is in the hands of
petty bourgeois leadership and, in Jamaica and Guyana
where the working class is organized and splintered
along lines of political tribalism, the politicians
have managed to relegate the objective interests of-
the workers to a secondary position. The class
struggle in these countries has been divided between
the economic class struggle under the supervision of
labor leaders and the political class struggle headed
by the politicians. The result is that the labor
movement and the working class struggle are permeated
by an economistic outlook that is essentially petty
It has been becoming increasingly difficult
for the governments and petty bourgeois labor leaders
to maintain their undisputed control over the workers,
both rural and urban proletarians. This is partly a
result of deepening economic crisis and political
irresponsibility which is reflected in growing social
disaffection among the masses. But, the working class
is still plagued by a dominant false consciousness
that stands in the way of the rapid development of a
class consciousness that is indispensable for the
recognition of its objective class interests. Econo-
mism, economic and employment insecurity, and institu-
tionalized bourgeois ideology are some of the real
impediments. It is all the more obvious why the
proletariat remains divided on a number of critical
issues including the kind of economic order that is
necessary for the solution of the unemployment prob-
lem. The kind of polarization that takes place around
the proletariat in these societies is reflected in
measures such as enactment of anti-working class
legislation which occurred in Trinidad and Tobago in
1965 and 1972, and in Jamaica in 1974. And there is
the practice by governments of holding the working

class responsible for low productivity and, therefore,
low level capital accumulation and investment. Of
course, these same governments have entered into all
manner of unequal economic arrangements with foreign
capital in the name of sponsoring industrial develop-
ment as can be seen from the various incentive
arrangements that now crowd the statute books.
All of this is related to our present investi-
gation,for control over the working class is reflected
in the ongoing adjustment and adaptation to imperial-
ism, hence the accommodation of the foreign monopoly
capitalist high productivity "enclave" sector. For-
eign companies in the primary-producing sector and
those engaged in the manufacturing sector, for
example, pay higher wages than many "local" industries.
Unequal wage rates tend to reflect unequal production
levels across firms and industries, notwithstanding
the "politics" of wage determination in these open
dependent economies. But the profit motive of
capitalist enterprise has been the basis for the
ongoing rationalization of the economic production
process. In the presence of foreign domination, the
gains from higher productivity, which come via the
substitution of machinery and technology for manpower,
tend to accrue abroad or, if reinvested, are used to
deepen and reinforce the existing process of underde-
The high wage sector of the working population
is therefore small and constitutes what is often
described as the "labor aristocracy." This sector
coexists with the mass of low wage workers and lumpen
elements. The petty bourgeois outlook which is
widespread in the working class leadership adds to the
practice of tribalism that exists between the various
categories of workers. Political victimization is a
powerful weapon in the hands of the politicians and
labor leaders when it comes to exercising control over

workers in an unstable economy with chronic unemploy-
ment problems. Some workers do not only come to
believe that capitalism and higher levels of foreign
investment are the answer to their problems but they
also come to adopt a less than favorable attitude toward
fellow workers. Therefore, the incidence of unemploy-
ment that is linked to the process we have been
discussing cannot be separated from the broader
political economic considerations with which migration
is linked. In effect, the migration policy which a
country adopts is also the legislative expression of
the political economic and cultural character of the
state and the country's place in the world system in
which it participates.11
During the decade 1960-1970 a large number
of West Indians emigrated to North America and
Britain. Palmer gives figures of 150,000 such immi-
grants into the U. S. alone for 1962-1971,12 and Beck-
ford estimates that there were 280,000 emigrants for
the 1960-1970 period.13 For the latter period the
annual average rate of emigration as a percentage of
the natural increase in the population was as follows
for Commonwealth Caribbean countries: Jamaica 55%,
Trinidad and Tobago 53%, Guyana 27%, Barbados 87%, St.
Lucia 53%, St. Vincent 73%, Grenada 78%, Dominica 76%,
St. Kitts-Nevis 142%, and Montserrat 124%.14 In spite
of this exodus, the average rate of unemployment per
territory during the same period (1960-1970) was
between 15 -20 percent of the labor force. Since 1970
Jamaica, for example, has had an average unemployment
rate of 20 percent per year.5
Following upon the British government's
enactment of the Commonwealth Immigration Act (1962)
which drastically reduced the rate and flow of
Commonwealth immigration into Britain, West Indian
immigrants began to turn increasingly to the United
States and Canada.16 In 1965, however, the

Immigration and Nationality Act (1952), also known as
the McCarran-Walter Act, was amended. The amended
Immigration act (1965) was intended to protect Ameri-
can workers while restricting immigration from the
Western Hemisphere. It has been suggested that the
introduction in 1968, of the annual ceiling of 120,000
immigrant visas for the Western Hemisphere has tended
to negate the intent of the Immigration Act of 1965,
and that a possible acceleration of the export of
skilled labor from Western Hemisphere countries into
the United States might be traceable to the labor
certification requirement that was instituted under
the same act in 1968.17
Research on the export of skilled labor from
the Commonwealth Caribbean is only now being begun.18
At this stage we cannot verify that the changes which
were made in U. S. immigration legislation actually
accelerated the "brain drain" from the Commonwealth
Caribbean. First of all between 1965 and 1975, at
least 50% of Commonwealth Caribbean immigrants to the
U. S. have fallen into the category of those without
jobs or those not declaring employment. Also the
other 50% has included the highly skilled workers
along with intermediate categories of skilled and
unskilled workers. Generally, it is difficult to
obtain data on specific employment skills --doctors,
engineers, and others --from the Commonwealth Carib-
bean though there is much more data available on
general categories of skills: administrative, techni-
cal, managerial, clerical, and others. Table 1
includes selected data on categories of Commonwealth
Caribbean immigrants to the U. S. for 1966-1974. The
information contained in Table 1 is revealing in light
of the high level of unemployment in the region and
the level of migration that has been taking place. We
have already indicated that, apart from Guyana, no
Commonwealth Caribbean country exported less than 50%

Trinidad &

Table 1
Commonwealth Caribbean Immigrants Admitted by Country of Origin
and by Occupation Year Ending June 30, 1966-June 30, 1974

Admissions by Country of Origin
1~ 11- t
























19 7







Technical & 346 1824 2814 2842 1809 2081 1511 1282 1140 15649

Technical &
Kindred as % 24.1 18.6 12.1 15.3 13.6 16.5 13.1 14.2 11.8
of all

Total by
1 QA-7/



Source: U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service Reports
1: For Period 1967 1974
2: For Period 1968 1974
3: Does not include Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago

196 197 1966-74 II

of the natural increase in population during 1960-
An average of 15.5 percent of all immigrants
admitted during1966-1974 have been professional,
technical and kindred workers. Apart from a tentative
study on Jamaica there is no data on the monetary
contribution of Commonwealth Caribbean countries to
the U. S. economy in terms of exported labor that was
trained in those countries. Based on this very
general data and the absence of more concrete infoma-
tion on the number of immigrants admitted by profes-
sion (doctors, dentists, nurses) the actual cost of
training these professionals or the economic cost to
the labor-exporting economies it would be unwise to
try to make any specific extrapolation from the data.
Between 1961-1968, however, a number of high-level
personnel emigrated from Trinidad and Tobago to the
United States. In terms of the specific fields of
study there were 33 immigrants from the natural
sciences, 113 from education, 74 engineers, 39 from
dentistry and medicine, 480 nurses, and 234 individu-
als from unspecified fields of study: a total of 973
Another problem which Commonwealth Caribbean
countries have experienced has been the visibility of
expatriates in key administrative and technical
positions in the private sector, especially in foreign
owned and controlled enterprises. It was reported in
an earlier study on Jamaica that this problem was
indeed very serious and, furthermore, that Jamaica
could be said to lack required human resources in the
professional, technical and related areas. This is
an interesting point since Jamaica, like other Common-
wealth Caribbean countries: exports high-level manpower.
The problem involves two categories: expatriates in
top positions in these occupations and those trained
Jamaicans whose skills do not meet the stated skill

requirements and specifications of foreign enterprises.
There is also the practice by these governments of
importing foreign experts for various assignments
including the preparation of development plans. The
form of this problem is similar to that identified by
Ernesto Pernia and which was referred to above: the
training of skilled labor that is not being utilized
because of the absence of jobs and/or the contextual
basis for planning and programs where this labor could
be used productively. This skilled labor migrates for
these and other reasons. Moreover, Alice Casserly
indicated that emigration has also been contributing
to the shortage of required skilled workers because
many of those who migrate are skilled.22 This situa-
tion is reflective of a more basic contradiction: the
export of labor results from underdevelopment and the
intensification of underdevelopment is maintained from
the export of labor that is necessary to facilitate
Even at this present stage of the heightening
of the contradictions produced by imperialism in the
periphery --those associated with underdevelopment
and, in this case, the manifestations of petty
bourgeois nationalism --it is necessary to be very
careful about rushing to make conclusions about the
benefits of the kind of nationalization and participa-
tion that is currently being practised. More specifi-
cally, the new nationalism has managed to obtain
concessions from foreign capital including the
transfer of managerial functions from expatriates to
nationals as the process of adaptation to imperialism
localization deepens. But it has been shown that this
kind of participation with monopoly capital within the
neo-colonial context is mainly a further adjustment to
imperialism in which double loyalties are created and
promoted among the nationals that replace expatriates
in foreign enterprises.23 This evidence suggests that

even the creation of jobs for high-level manpower
should not necessarily be seen as "a blessing in
disguise" because the skills of those who replace
expatriates might not necessarily be used in ways that
are conducive to the realization of productive devel-
opment. These points help to elucidate aspects of a
very complex problem and suggest that the solution to
this problem is not compatible with adaptation to
Some final comments are in order on other
aspects of the emigration of skilled labor from
Jamaica. It is estimated that the annual rate of
emigration of professional and technical personnel has
been about 16 percent during 1970-1975. According to
Robert Girling, during that period about 10,225 per-
sons were expected to emigrate from Jamaica out of a
total of 15,000 persons that would have been trained
in that country.24 It was estimated that, based on
this level of emigration of high-level manpower, the
monetary value of Jamaica's gift of labor to the
metropolitan economies was about J$9 million.25 These
economies of the Commonwealth Caribbean have therefore
been making their contribution to world capitalism by
exporting raw materials, surplus value and skilled
labor. Girling also estimates that, based on the
exportation of skilled labor alone, the approximate
annual cost to the Jamaican economy in terms of pro-
duction foregone ranges, in money terms, between J$6
million and J$30 million.26
There may be a valid question of whether
additional employment and production would have been
realized had not these emigration outlets been made
available. It is possible that, without these outlets,
the level of unemployment might even be higher. We
are also aware that the availability of remittances
from many of these emigrants has kept many dependents
and able-bodied persons within the margin of

subsistence. However, to view this situation as
salutary on pragmatic grounds is to condone underde-
velopment and misunderstand the process of imperialism
These outlets can be cut off even if such action
appears improbable. Clearly, then, we should not lose
sight of the real problem: migration has to be
understood within the context of international capi-


The foregoing discussion on emigration and
underdevelopment suggests the following state of
affairs. First of all it is fruitless to approach the
problem without a clear understanding of the nature
and dynamics of the existing capitalist system as it
functions within countries and on a world scale. It
is the international situation of world capitalism
that reflects the basic dynamic of the international
division of labor. Within the peripheral capitalist
socio-economic formations the problems of unemployment
and emigration assume national forms but are interna-
tional in content. It is the interaction of these
peripheral economies with those of the center that
provide us with the necessary insight into the work-
ings of the world system. To appreciate this point
one must be aware that the socialization of production
is not restricted to the national boundaries of each
of these countries but that it is essentially social-
ized international capitalist production.
The problem of migration and the methods that
have been adopted to deal with it in the Commonwealth
Caribbean cannot lead to any real solution. Popula-
tion policy and government supported emigration do
little more than to regularize the problem within a
framework of balanced disequilibrium. This suggests
that a meaningful solution is not to be found within

the existing socioeconomic context in which the
problem arose in the first place. Furthermore, the
problem must also be handled at the international
level since it is bound up with and reflects the
asymmetrical distribution of economic power within and
between center and periphery: a manifestation of the
content of imperialism.
The discussion also indicated that the policy
associated with emigration cannot be studied in
isolation from the governments that sponsor it. This
says something about these governments. As so-called
neo-colonial countries the Commonwealth Caribbean has
been characterized by its propensity to adjust and
adapt to the changing process of imperialism. Hence,
the class nature of those States is reflected in the
measures they adopt to deal with unemployment. These
regimes participate in, and contribute to, the problem
from which emigration arises.
The problems of the transfer of resources from
the periphery -- raw materials and surplus value --
contribute to the transfer of skills and jobs to the
center. This is a clear case of what we call the
transfer of the "mechanisms of transformation". It is
this transfer of the "mechanisms of transformation"
that contributes to the export of labor in search of
employment that should have been created in these
peripheral economies in the first place. This factor
is a feature of the very nature of the international
division of labor within the international capitalist
system. It is obvious that the real expanding produc-
tive sector for the absorption of this labor is to be
found in the economies of the center. This does not
always present itself in this way because the center
economies also have their unemployment problems that
originate from the contradiction between production
and appropriation. Nonetheless, the dynamic of the
center economies in which the internal market is

dominant where fhP hepi ~li t mtl o nf prodlcit inn he
onimeps Pvrl sive and which hor-lbs labor and l irpli"
v\'a1 from tlie ppriphlrv is a f is a rFlit of the natn"-
and dalirpoe ien of a| pioat ionsI a nnilat ie nn a world

T'he probl') 1 i c niiPe r. i.o ,relv ain naadPmnir
ro hl iP' I tf istl p a t t I Ia .t irF N erdpevelonPlit
and mirrors t hP han' nrpi **tt and et hl ds Ithat haoe bppn "qpd Ir onlyI i thprp a Pe pdF a Athpo "r A 'I it ira 1' "nn-
in\- o dpevplopiipnt hat an pevi'lan hicn prhlep Bit,
p'ch A 1. hlp v ist a Is" he rnIt ed in I lfi tindprerPt nindi
that I liP prol'lpm can nil he s xslvpd aln" g with tI P
othpr pioblIpms ip ionf national ca pit lism.


Bernard Poole ';: r' ; ,',an ""... '.>I.s .ii.
ps i ppra; a r. i own : .:a o. (Columbi a, South
Carolina: Uiniversity of South Carolina Press. 1951)
pp. 200-203.

2The categories of formations of the center and
formations of the periphery are borrowed from Samir
Amin's Anoumulation on a Wr Soal: Ai Cpitique rf
the Theory of iindPirvc .' *rri; (New York: Monthly
Review Press, 1974), 2 vols. Cee especially vol. 1,
part 1.

3Ibid, pp. 37-38.

Ibid, p. 38.

5See for example The Industri!rnaction of the British
West Indies. (Bridgetown, Barbados: the Government
Printing Office, 1951).

6Lloyd Best and Kari Levitt, "Externally Propelled
Industrialization in the Caribbean." (Mineo) pp. 24-
28 and George L. Beckford Persistent Poverty. (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1972).

Robert W. Cox, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 54, No. 2, January
1976, pp. 344-365. Wilfred David, "The Brain Drain and
Its Implications for Guyana's Manpower Requirements and
Development: 1971-80 Development." Georgetown, Guyana:
Ministry of Economic Development, 1970) pp. 6-8. See
also United Nations Institute for Training and Research,
The Brain Drain from Five Developing Countries:
Cameroon Colombia Lebanon The Philippines -
Trinidad and Tobago. (New York: UNITAR Research
Reports, No. 5, 1971) Chapter 1. See for a more useful
treatment of the problem of unemployment in the Common-
wealth Caribbean, Alister McIntyre. "Reflections on
the Problem of Unemployment in the Commonwealth Carib-
bean," in A. W. Singham, ed. The Commonwealth Caribbean
into the Seventies. (Montreal: McGill University,
Center for Developing Area Studies, 1975) pp. 1-15;
Norman Girvan, "Unemployment in Jamaica," in Norman
Girvan and Owen Jefferson, eds. Readings in the Polit-
ical Economy of the Caribbean. (Kingston, Jamaica:
New World Group Ltd., 1972) p. 270 ff.; Hla Myint,
Economic Theory and the Underdeveloped Countries. (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1971) pp. 223-237; Hla
Myint, The Economics of the Developing Countries. (New
York: Praeger, 1971), Chapter 6; Ransford Palmer,
"The Migration of Human Resources from the Caribbean:
Some Economic Implications." Paper presented at the
Second Annual Conference of the Caribbean Studies
Association, Castries, St. Lucia, 7-9 January 1976;
Ernesto Pernia, "The Question of the Brain Drain from
the Philippines." International Migration Review, Vol.
X, No. 1, January 1976, pp. 63-64.

8George L. Beckford, "Socio-Economic Change and
Political Continuity in the English Caribbean."
Paper delivered at the CLASCO-UNAM Conference on the
Caribbean. Mexico City, October 28 November 1,
1974, p. 5.

Best and Levitt, op.cit., p. 86.

1Referred to in Best and Levitt, op.cit., D. 102.

1Frank A. Barrnet, "A Schema for Indirect International
Migration." International Migration Review, vol. X,
no. 1, January 1976, p. 6.

12Palmer, op.cit., p. 3.

1Beckford, op.cit., p. 11. Mortality and retirement
were less than 50 percent of net migration, according
to Beckford.

1Ibid., p. 10.

15Jamaica Economic Survey 1971-1972 (Annual). pp. 95-96.

16an R. H. Rockett, "Immigration Legislation and the
Flow of Specialized Human Capital from South America
to the United States." International Migration Review.
vol. X, no. 1, January 1976, p. 48. Between 1968-1971
about 9,600 Jamaicans migrated to Canada. See Jamaica
Economic Survey 1971-1972 (Annual).

17 bid

18Wilfred David and Robert K. Girling, "The Migration of
Human Capital from the Third World: The Implications
and some Data on the Jamaica Case." Social and Economic
Studies. vol. 23, no. 1, March 1974, pp. 84-96. Also
see note 7 above.

19In 1975 Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago were among
the fifteen leading countries that exported labor to
the United States. They held tenth and fifteenth

positions, respectively. Reported in U.S. News and
World Report, April 15, 1976, p. 27 and based on
U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service data.

2UNITAR Reports Np. 5, p. 140.

2Alice Casserly, "The Unavailability of Required
Human Resources" in Jack Harewood, ed. Human
Resources in the Commonwealth Caribbean. (Mona, Jamaica:
University of the West Indies I.S.E.R., 1970) p. 5.

Ibid., p. 6

C. Y. Thomas, "Meaningful Participation, the Fraud
of It" in Orde Coombs, ed. Is Massa Day Done? Black
Moods in the Caribbean. New York: Doubleday-Anchor

Robert K. Girling, "The Migration of Human Capital

from the Third World: The Implications and some
Data on the Jamaican Case." Social and Economic
Studies, Vol. 23, No. 1, March 1974. D. 93.


26Ibid., p. 94.

Migration From the Caribbean to the States:
The Economic Status of the Immigrants*

Ransford W. Palmer


Migration statistics clearly show that over the
last ten to fifteen years, there has been substantial
migration of human resources from the Caribbean to North
America, in particular to the United States. The
character of the migration to the United States is markedly
different from that of the great migration of West Indians
to Britain in the 'fifties in one major respect: migration
to the United States has included a larger percentage of
professional and technical people.
This migration of human resources goes counter
to one of the most resounding themes being echoed by
Caribbean countries, that is, ownership and control of
their own resources. This theme has grown out of dis-
appointment with the limited social benefits generated
by foreign capital invested through large multinational
corporations. In the Caribbean, the bulk of the foreign
capital has gone to exploit mineral resources for export,
while the growth of economic opportunities has barely
kept pace with population growth. It is this fundamental
condition which generates the thinking that if enough jobs

*Revised version.of paper prepared for the Research
Institute on Immigration and Ethnic Studies, Smithsonian
Institution, for presentation to the panel on "International
Migration as a Policy Issue: The Western Hemisphere,"
XVII Annual Convention of the International Studies
Association, Toronto, Canada, 25-28 February 1976, chaired
by Dr. Roy Bryce-Laporte.

and opportunities do not come with the imported capital
and technology, people ought to go to the jobs in North
America where, as Michael Piore argues, the capitalist
society needs labor to man positions at the lower end
of the social structure.

Patterns of Migration

According to the 1970 United States Census,
234,000 immigrants from the Caribbean were in the
United States at that time,2 comprising 2.4 percent of
all the immigrants. As Table 1 shows, approximately
50 percent of them came between 1965 and 1970. From
the English-speaking Caribbean alone, over 150,000
arrived between 1962 and 1971.3 Of the Caribbean
immigrants, 50 percent came from the English-speaking
Caribbean, 33 percent came from the Spanish-speaking
Caribbean (excluding Cuba and Puerto Rico), and 14
percent came from the French-speaking Caribbean.
Seventy-three percent of all Caribbean immi-
grants in the United States in 1970 lived in the New
York City metropolitan area and comprised the second-
largest group in that area. (The Italians were the
largest, with an estimated population of 280,000.)
The high concentration of Caribbean immigrants in New
York City may be explained by the thesis that empha-
sizes the importance of the migrant stock variable as
a determinant of the destination of new immigrants.
"The new immigrant is more likely to receive information
about those regions populated by relatives and friends,
and he is more apt to receive temporary accommodations
and to feel more at home in those areas." This is
strengthened by the fact that the majority of the new
immigrants are admitted under the immigration categories
which provide preference to relatives.

Table 1
Economic Characteristics of Caribbean Immigrants by Year of Immigration, 1970

Year of Number of Median Labor Force % of PTK* Labor Parti-
Immigration Immigrants Income of (16 and Workers, cipatton
Families over) Managers Rate

1965 1970 112,657 $ 7,653 66,118 10.35% 58.7%
1960 1964 39,848 8,619 24,717 16.75 62.0
1955 1959 15,588 10,113 10,788 21.19 69.2
1950 1954 13,149 9,433 9,759 19.95 74.2
1945 1949 10,158 9,994 7,299 19.52 71.8
1935 1944 4,528 10,189 2,747 15.69 60.6
1925 1934 5,245 8,284 2,837 23.05 54.0
Before 1925 20,521 6,633 6,699 23.60 32.6
Not reported 11,613 7,781 6,387 10.44 54.9

*Professional, Technical and Kindred

The pattern of migration from the West Indies
between 1962 and 1971, and the occupational distribu-
tion of the emigrants from the period, are shown in
Tables 2 and 3. Thirty-six percent of the skilled
workers (categories 1, 2, and 6 of Table 3) were
professionals and technicians and more than half of
them (Table 1) came from Jamaica. Of the professional
and technical workers emigrating from Jamaica between
1962 and 1972, over 46 percent (9,000) were from
medical and related fields, with nurses (3,000)
dominating the list. This massive migration of nurses
highlights the export of human capital to a developed
country by a developing country.

Chief Determinant of Migration

The major factor influencing migration from
the Caribbean to the United States is an economic one.
The substantial income differential between the U.S.
and the Caribbean has operated as a strong pull factor,
while the limited expansion of economic opportunities
for professional development in the Caribbean has
operated as a push factor.
The extent of the income differential between
the U.S. and the Caribbean may be illustrated by a
comparison of the output per worker in Jamaica with
output per worker in the U.S. Calculations for the
period 1963-1972 show that, on the average, output per
worker in the United States was ten times that of
output per worker in Jamaica. The exposure of Carib-
bean countries to the demonstration effect of high
income levels in the United States has made it diffi-
cult for Caribbean governments to effect any worthwhile
income redistribution program. Many skilled people who
view the labor market for their skills as a combination


Country 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971

Jamaica 1573 1880 1762 1837 2743 10483 17470 16947 15033 14571
Trinidad & Tobagob 2160 5266 6835 7350 7130
Barbadosb 1037 2024 1957 1774 1731
Other West Indies 2720 2599 2771 2873 3402 2099 4494 2507 2940 3065

Totals 4293 4479 4533 4710 6145 15779 29254 28246 27097 26497

Professional, Technical and Kindred Workers (PTK)

Jamaica 140 255 252 176 346 1357 1777 1704 1056 1078
Trinidad & Tobagob 330 555 622 472 496
Barbadosb 137 207 215 159 172
Other West Indies 237 249 262 303 364 213 294 190 178 257

Total 377 504 514 479 710 2037 2833 2431 1865 2003

Percent of Total
West Indian Mi- 8.7 11.2 11.3 10.1 11.5 12.9 9.6 8.6 6.8 7.5
gration to U.S.
PTK Emigrants from
Jamaica as % of 37.1 50.5 49.0 36.7 48.7 66.6 62.7 70,0 56.6 53.8
Total PTK Emig.
aSource: U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service,Annual

bFigures for 1962-1966 are included in the category "Other West Indies." Reports


Group Ten-Year

1. Professional, Technical and
Kindred Workers (PTK) ................. 13,753

2. Farmers and Farm Managers.............. 273

3. Managers, Officials and Proprietors..... 1,674

4. Clerical and Kindred Workers............. 10,686

5. Sales Workers........................... 1,417

6. Craftsmen, Foremen and Kindred
Workers................................ 13,920

7. Operatives and Kindred Workers........... 10,193

8. Private Household Workers............... 28,045

9. Service Workers except Private
Household ............................. 7,346

10. Farm Laborers and Foremen............... 1,116

11. Laborers except Farm and Mine........... 2,246

12. Housewives, children and others with
no occupation or occupation not
reported............................... 60,064

Grand Total 150,733

Category No. 1 as percent of total
workers ................................... 15.1%

Category No. 1 as a percent of Categories
Nos. 1, 6, 7.............................. 36.3%

aSource: U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and
Naturalization Service, Annual Reports

of the local market and the larger American market are
likely to emigrate with the slightest hint of a
redistribution of portions of their income to lower
income groups.

Economic Status of Immigrants in the United States

The figures show that Caribbean immigrants have
been able to improve their economic position in the
United States, even if their relative economic posi-
tion vis-a-vis other immigrant groups is low. An
examination of U.S. Census data for 1970 shows that
the median income of Caribbean immigrant families
(excluding Cuba and Puerto Rico) was $8,296.6 In
Table 4, this ranked nineteenth out of the twenty-
three immigrant groups examined. Although this median
income was substantially greater than that of black
American families, it was below the $9,327 for all
American families.
When we look at Table 1, a pattern of economic
progress of the Caribbean immigrant emerges. The
earlier immigrant families generally moved up the
median income scale as the percentage of professional
and technical workers in their ranks increased. This
strongly suggests that both skill and experience are
important factors influencing the median income of
immigrant families. This hypothesis can be tested with
the data for twenty-three immigrant groups in Table 4.
When median income of immigrant families (Ym) was
regressed on the share of skilled workers (Lk) in each
immigrant group, and the median age (A) of each group,
the share of skilled workers was far more significant
in explaining median income differences than the
median age. However, together these two independent
variables explained only 25 percent of the differences
in income from one immigrant group to another.


Country Median % Skilled Median Labor Par-
of Income of Workers in Age ticipation
Origin Families Labor Force Rate
(Ym) (Lk) (A) (Lp)

Canada $10,696 42.80% 50.8 45.59%
United 10,347 42.80 54.6 42.76
Ireland 10,112 34.02 61.8 42.51
Nether- 10,096 45.29 47.6 46.68
Germany 10,064 43.53 49.6 45.95
France 9,886 42.25 45.3 45.29
Yugoslavia 9,759 37.74 55.2 46.88
Hungary 9,750 47.37 62.8 42.76
China 9,660 38.06 38.4 59.45
Poland 9,631 37.64 64.5 40.32
Lithuania 9,619 44.08 68.1 37.07
Greece 8,846 35.37 45.4 48.24
Czecho- 8,721 43.09 65.2 36.64
Cuba 8,684 28.00 36.3 53.84
USSR 8,571 39.64 68.8 35.35
Austria 8,496 43.36 68.3 33.45
Italy 8,397 33.27 63.2 38.64
Japan 8,374 32.69 39.5 38.52
Caribbean 8,296 25.82 34.4 57.68
Norway 8,252 49.83 67.2 33.28
Denmark 8,080 47.04 65.9 37.20
Sweden 6,931 45.23 70.5 27.23
Mexico 6,440 20.48 37.9 45.76

Ym = 7495.39 + 96.02Lk + 40.47A
(6.49) (2,60) (1,81)
R2 = 25
These results suggest that other factors -- many of
which may well be non-economic -- play a critical role
in explaining income differences among the immigrant
groups. They also suggest that the relatively low
share of skilled workers in the Caribbean group and
the low median age of the group combine to give a
rough explanation of the group's median income
position vis-a-vis other groups.
The extremely high labor participation rate
(57.7) of the Caribbean group coupled with its
relatively low median income reflect the fact that a
disproportionate share of its work force is employed
in low-paying service occupations. This is reinforced
by the fact that almost half of the labor force (49
percent) is made up of women, a substantial share of
whom are employed in service occupations which are
low-paying by American standards. Bryce-Laporte
argues that generally jobs occupied by Caribbean
immigrants are low-paying or low-status by American
standards, or cannot be filled because of the under-
qualification of the natives regardless of color.
However, despite the relatively low salary and low
status of these jobs in the United States job market,
many West Indian nurses and secretaries, for example,
earn "much more at their 'professions' here in the
States than at home."7


It appears that the improvement of the
economic position of the Caribbean group will depend
significantly on the growth of the share of skilled
workers in this labor force. This means that the cost
of acquiring skills will be a critical factor in this

process. Since over 70 percent of Caribbean immi-
grants live in New York City, the cost of education
there in the years ahead is of particular signifi-
cance. The city's current fiscal problem points to
increasing costs to its residents for education and
training in the future. This is a development that
may well make it difficult for Caribbean immigrants to
improve their relative economic position.
In the end it will be far easier for the
Caribbean immigrants to improve their economic posi-
tion relative to what it was in their home country
than to improve their relative position vis-a-vis
higher income groups in the United States. The latter
may appear less urgent than the former, but it is just
as important if these immigrants are not to become an
underclass occupying low-paying service jobs in a
capitalist economy.


1Michael T. Piore, "The 'New Immigration' and the
Presumptions of Social Policy," Proceedings,
Industrial Relations Research Association 27th Annual
Meeting, December 1974, p. 354.

2U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census of Population: 1970
Subject Reports, Final Report PC(2)-1A, National
Origin and Language (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government
Printing Office, 1973).

3See Ransford W. Palmer, "A Decade of West Indian
Migration to the United States: An Economic Analysis,"
Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 23 (December 1974),
pp. 571-587.

James A. Dunlevy and Henry A. Gemery, "A Comparison
of Migrant Stock and Lagged Migration as Explanatory
Variables in Migration Studies," paper delivered at
the Western Economic Association Conference, San
Diego, California, June 1975 (mimeo), p. 1.
See also P. Nelson, "Migration, Real Income
and Information," Journal of Regional Science, 1
(1959) pp. 43-74; and M.J. Greenwood, "An Analysis of
the Determinants of Geographic Labor Mobility in the
United States," Review of Economics and Statistics,
51 (May 1969), pp. 189-194.

5U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration and Natural-
ization Service, 1972 Annual Report (Washington, D.C.
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972), pp. 2-3.

Ransford W. Palmer, The Economic Status of Caribbean
Immigrants in the United States (mimeo).

Roy S. Bryce-Laporte, testimony rivcn at the Hearings
before the Subcommittee on Inter-American Affairs of the Committee
on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, 93rd Congress,
Second Session, September 1973 (Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Government Printing Office, 1974), pp. 76-77.

Black Immigrants and the American Ethos:
Theories and Observations*

Dennis Forsythe

A Model of Ethnic Achievement In America

Sociologists and historians for some time have
attempted to document the forces and processes which
underlie the assimilation, or non-assimilation, of the
various ethnic groups in American society. That is,
they have noted the general tendency of certain immigrant
groups to be absorbed into the mainstream society and
have tried to delineate factors responsible for dif-
ferential rates of assimilation of the various groups.
The majority of these scholars have taken the
conservative ideological position that there is a
"natural history" or "life cycle" which all or most
immigrant groups follow in their inevitable movement
towards assimilation. The cases of Eurooean ethnics
(Germans, Italians, Irish, Jews, Poles and others)
are used as evidence in support of this theory. This
immigration perspective implies that any problems
encountered by other groups are merely temporary
problems of immigrant adjustment for, given enough
time they, like other immigrants before them, will

*This paper was prepared for a panel discussion
organized by the Research Institute on Immigration
and Ethnic Studies on the topic, "Ethnicity, the
American Ethos and the New Immigration: Theories and
Observations," 7 November 1975. My thanks to Roy
Bryce-Laporte, Director of the Institute, for
encouraging me to systematize my thoughts on the topic.

progressively become incorporated and assimilated,
Even Ira Reid's study of Black immigrants to America
utilized this tradition.1 The framework of this
perspective rests essentially on acceptance of the
image of America as a land of economic opportunity
providing equalitarian opportunities for all to rise
from "rags to riches."
The most vociferous critics of this theory
have come from a racial-nationalistic perspective:
they point to the present plight of Blacks in America
as the clearest refutation of this thesis. Blacks are
one of the oldest immigrant groups in America, yet
they remain like permanent outsiders. Even in Britain
the immigration perspective voiced by sociologists
such as Sheila Patterson and Michael Banton,2 has
come under heavy attack. One "West Indian Briton" has
stated that Blacks in Britain or the United States
will be viewed first and foremost as outsiders regard-
less of how long they live in those countries. That
this belief is valid insofar as the British are
concerned can be borne out upon examination of the
philosophical congruity underlying Enoch Powell's
question: "How can a Black man born in England be
English?" and the fact that, without exception all the
statutory and voluntary white agencies in England have
now adopted the label 'second generation' immigrants
to refer to Black Britons.3
Both the advocates of assimilation and their
racial critics have elements of truth in their parti-
cular assertions; but both sides have gone astray
because of their failure to develop an adequate
definition or model of American (metropolitan) society
and American culture. Had this been done the natural
history advocates perhaps would have developed a more
accurate theory of ethnic assimilation based upon the
values and adaptive capacity of immigrants in relation
to the values and socio-econ-institutions of the host


society. And, the racial critics would have come to
view "race" as an important factor because of the
havoc it has historically wrought on Blacks. Our
theory comes somewhere in between these two aforemen-
tioned approaches as it takes into account race, class
and immigration so as to accord each a more correct
place within the total explanatory scheme.
As a first step in this analysis we must
develop a typology of American society as it has
manifested itself to immigrants; a typology that will
express the essential core and dynamics of the
American reality.
What is America? When people migrate to
America what are they migrating to? How should we
characterize American society and American culture?
American society is the most highly developed capital-
ist system, defined as one in which the rational and
systematic pursuit of economic gain has reached its
highest point. Max Weber's conception of the
"Protestant ethic" is a particularly appropriate
concept when attempting to understand the development
of capitalism in the United States for it incorporates
the values and attitudes most conducive to the
efflorescence of American capitalism. Weber chose the
American patriarch Benjamin Franklin to personify the
Protestant ethic. Of Franklin he wrote that the
"virtue and proficiency" of earning money in a calling
are "the real Alpha and Omega of Franklin's ethic."
It seems not unreasonable to state that the type of
money-work ethic conceptualized by Weber has long been
the motive force in American culture. As a justifica-
tion of wealth, this work-discipline-spending ethic
has been voiced by leading capitalist stalwarts such
as Andrew Carnegie and have become secularized and
integrated into the major institutions of American
society. Thus, it is quite clear that the only
common American culture is the culture and ethic of

capitalism which arose out of what de Tocqueville
\Democracy in America, 1835) referred to as "the
peculiar and accidental situation which Providence has
placed on the American, namely: the absence of any
great Capital city and of warring neighbors, the
diverse social origins of the settlers, the abundant
land and other resources, the desire for riches and
expansion which kept the people on the move, and a
great commercial passion."
The core value-components of this culture
include the ethic of crass materialism, the "cult" of
rugged individualism and acquisitiveness, aggressive-
ness, ruthless competitiveness, pragmatism, rational-
ism and anti-traditionalism. Commenting on the
economic conditions of his time, Weber noted that
capitalism had come to dominate American economic life
and in the process educated and selected the subjects
it needed through an "ethic" he referred to as
economic survival of the fittest.
While many white Anglo-Saxon Protestants
(W.A.S.P s) claim this capitalist culture as their very
own, the truth is that this culture was a supranational
form generic to the socio-economic movement called
Industrialization which happened to have emerged in
fullest form first among W.A.S.P.'s of Europe. But
now the John Birchites, the Minutemen, the Ku Klux
Klansmen and other white American radical rightists
are claiming that it represents "American" ideals and
culture, a form which they think must be protected at
all costs from Communists, Jews, Negroes and "foreign-
This "American" culture is one in which human
beings swing to the jingle of coins and to the mechan-
ical beat of machines, where living men are dominated
by dead matter (money); it is a culture in which time
and discipline are central. It is a cultural orienta-
tion which sociologist Talcott Parsons euphemistically

has called "Instrumental Activism."
Parsons characterizes America's instrumental activism
as being vested in the interest of range and quality
of adaptation, with greatest emphasis on economic
production. Such production, he further asserts, is
highly valued as the most immediate focus of adaptive
Accordingly America has functioned primarily
as an economic reality offering unequal economic
opportunities to diverse peoples. The American War of
Independence, the American Civil War and most other
significant turmoils have been primarily economic
struggles. Thus, the most unifying and common
cultural elements in America, which have united the
various groups, have involved their actual or expected
participation within this common economic culture.
This has been the meaning of "America" and this was
how America was viewed.
Ethnic groups have used America as an instru-
ment for their economic advancement, and in spite of
the leveling effects of this urban materialist culture,
they have often attempted to retain their traditional
cultures as cushions and psychological refuges against
the conforming and overwhelming might of the American
social landscape. Thus, above and beyond the over-
riding Capitalist "Protestant" culture, sub-cultural
clusters exist but only as expressions and adaptations
to the particular economic realities (success or
failure) of various groups (e.g., the culture of
poverty of Blacks) and of the modified cultural
importations of the incoming ethnic groups (for
instance, "African survivals"),
What does all of this mean for the adjustment
levels and positions of the differing ethnic groups in
America? If indeed American society conforms fairly
closely to the above picture of a competitive, acquis-
itive, materialistic and technological culture, then

one would naturally expect that this cultural pattern
would dictate standards for assimilation. One would
expect that those immigrant groups traditionally
possessing a cultural orientation fairly similar to
that of America, or who had a very adaptive culture,
would assimilate or merge at a quicker pace than
groups with values antithetical to capitalism. Groups
with a greater adaptive capacity vis-a-vis the basic
capitalistic reality are bound to emerge as dominant
groups. Sociologists have broadly defined adaptive
capacity as: relying upon elements of a minority
group's cultural heritage which provide (a) bases for
effective competition with the dominant group, (b)
offers protection against exploitation, and (c) may
either foster or retard the minority's adaptation to
the social milieu by facilitating or impeding the
group's upward advancement.6
Thus, American immigrant groups have fit in
with and become organic parts of U.S. society in
proportion to the degree to which they could socially,
culturally and psychologically adapt to the overriding
capitalistic imperatives of the American reality. By
no means, however, should this historical descriptive
assessment of the history of United States society be
taken as the author's prescription for the solution of
America's racial problem, for as Lerone Bennett once
stated: "nothing is worse than failing in America
than succeeding in America." What does it profit a
people to gain the whole world (economically) but lose
their group soul? Moreover, all the evidence increas-
ingly reveals the mounting disintegration of American
society which makes naught of any long term efforts of
the Afro-American collectivity to "make it" in the
system by becoming more capitalistic. Additionally,
"succeeding" on the individual level is becoming less
rewarding as American wealth, during these "last
days," has become more and more concentrated in the


hands of a few monopoly capitalists.
This general theory becomes more convincing
when we compare a number of ethnic and color groups
and'find that the most consistent factor underlying
group success or failure was the presence or absence
of what sociologist Max Weber has called the "Protes-
tant ethic." A cursory analysis of the cultural
patterns of the various ethnic groups can serve to
highlight this argument.
Among the "old" ethnic immigrants the Irish
were initially disdained as much for their newness as
for their being Catholic, their poverty and their
illiteracy. They were, however, endowed with language
and political skills, and fired on by memories of
Irish famines. They became so dominated by the urge
to succeed in America that in time they came to equal
the W.A.S.P. in terms of financial success and thereby
came to be regarded as the "most pushy" of the
Catholic groups. One observer has described the
general orientation of Irish politicians. And,
according to him the general success of the Irish
politician is due, in part, to having more of an
interest in winning elections and solving difficult
problems in an informal off-the-record manner as
opposed to being a political 'purist' which could lead
to situations of explicit confrontation.
Likewise, Jews have moved up within American
society by utilizing such middle class values as
orderly conservation of capital, high valuation and
use of education and a strong family base. They have
accordingly become one of the models of ethnic success
in America.
In America the Japanese, Mexican-Americans and
Native Americans are roughly of the same racial
status -- non-white coloreds -- yet their economic
status varies tremendously. Why?
The Japanese have ceased being a "yellow

peril" and today constitute white America's "model
minority." From the 1950's onwards the Japanese have
attained tremendous occupational and economic success,
so much so that many sociologists no longer regard
them as a minority. Ironically nowadays it has become
common to see white Americans driving Japanese-made
cars with such stickers as "Love America or Leave It."
Yet, the story of the Japanese experience in America
is one entailing much grief, much hurt and much
racism. Like the Blacks, they have been the object of
color prejudice; like the Jews they have been feared
and hated as hyper-efficient competitors. And, more
than any other group, they have been seen as the
agents of an overseas enemy. In America in 1942 some
117,116 Japanese (two-thirds of whom were born in
America) were dispossessed of over $200 million worth
of property, isolated in concentration camps and
curfewed. Their businesses were picketed in San
Francisco and no firm in San Francisco's financial
district would hire a Japanese-American. Japanese
were assaulted on the streets, and until 1952 no
Japanese could be naturalized. As non-citizens they
were denied access to any urban professions requiring
a license and could not own agricultural lands. How-
ever, every attempt to hamper their progress resulted
in enhancing their determination to succeed. What
explains the success of the Japanese in coping with
social degradation, denial of citizenship rights, and
deprivation of the means of achieving economic
success?8 One study has drawn attention to the
"significant compatibility of values which gives rise
to a similarity in the psychological adaptive mecha-
nisms which are most commonly used by individuals in
the two societies..." The Japanese emphasize
personal achievement of long-range goals at all
costs -- even if one is tired and puzzled and the
outer world presents great obstacles, one must keep on

and never give up. High value is placed on attainment
of such long-range goals as higher education, profes-
sional success, and the building of a spotless reputation
within the community. For these reasons, since 1940,
the Japanese have had more schooling than any other
minority/ethnic group in America. Among persons aged 14
years or older in 1960, the median years of schooling
completed by the Japanese were 12.2 compared with 11.1
years for Chinese, 11.0 by whites, 9.2 by Filipinos,
8.6 by Negroes and 8.4 by Indians. It is said that
Japanese educational careers were conducted like a
military campaign against a hostile world, with
intelligent planning and tenacity. Their pragmatic
vocational approach meant that their degrees were in
business administration, engineering and optometry and
rarely in the social sciences. Besides this cultural
orientation, it must be remembered that the Japanese
came from a homeland that was already becoming indus-
trialized. In Meiji, Japan, diligence in work
combined with frugality, had an almost religious
imperative, which resulted in a kind of psychological
preparedness for the rat-race of modern capitalism.
Moreover, unlike Blacks, they were nurtured by ties
with their fatherland. Pride in their heritage and
shame for any reduction in its legendary glory helped
to sustain the group during travails in America.
The Mexican-American minority, in contrast to
the Japanese, are much closer biologically to the
Caucasian "race" and often benefited from prestigious
Spanish surnames, yet they are the very epitome of
economic failure. Why? Mexican-Americans, like other
captive peoples (native Americans and Afro-Americans)
who involuntarily have been made into colonial
subjects, and have been boxed in on plantations, into
ghettoes or on reservations have become socially and
psychologically crippled so that they are at a disad-
vantage in the competitive "Protestant" world. To be

sure, the ghetto is a competitive and aggressive
arena but with a lesser degree of rational and system-
atic commitment to and pursuit of, money (the "mighty
dollar" or "Green Power"). The cultures of poverty of
these groups retard their capacity to deal with
America. Colonialism has meant that the conquered
groups become the victims of racism and are rendered
politically and economically powerless, partly because
of the institutionalization of this external relation-
ship of dominance.
The Mexican minority is still loyal to the
Spanish language as the mother tongue and often shows
resistance to the use of English, a tendency which is
reinforced by residential segregation. This often
leads to academic failure and the lowering of the
self-image of Spanish children. It is indeed a
vicious circle. In proportion to their populations,
four times as many Anglos are found in professional
and technical occupations as Spanish-speaking persons.
One-third of the Spanish-speaking men are engaged as
laborers or farm workers, while only 7% of the Anglos
are so employed. And, of all workers, Spanish-speaking
farm workers occupy the lowest rung on the employment
ladder in the five southwestern American states.
The Native American has also been caught up in
a matrix of traditional values which violates many of
the premises of aggressive and individualistic
capitalist society. Traditionally, he saw himself as
part of a harmonious mystical whole consisting of his
fellow men, Nature, and the gods. A person molded in
such a culture is not equipped to readily adjust to an
individualistic anonymous existence that is the
atomized nuclear-family and the self-sufficiency
pattern of the city-dweller. As one sociologist so
aptly noted: A number of anthropologists have pointed
out that among the Native American tribal groups almost
all had and still retain some common values that differ

from or are completely contrary to those of the
dominant society. And, whereas the dominant
society's system of values dictates the need for an
individualistic outlook as preparation for competition
in striving to acquire material possessions Indians
for the most part, are not aggressive towards one
another, and have a tradition which endows a man with
more prestige in direct relation to what he has shared
with and given away to others.10

West Indian Immigrants and the American Ethos

Where Afro-Americans (the Black Muslims are
the best case study) and other Blacks (West Indians)
have shown a greater Protestant orientation, they have
likewise shown a tendency to attain a modicum of
economic success, which places them above the general
economic level of the Black masses.
Every phase and aspect of the West Indian
experience (specifically their background and migra-
tion experiences) have imbued them with the Protestant
"spirit." As a result of their schooling within the
British educational system, their majority status in
the Caribbean and the wider r6le frontier available
there, West Indians (even land-toiling peasants) have
historically emerged with a highly secularized Protes-
tant ethic which finds expression in a strong belief
in self, discipline, drive and determination, which
was the means by which poor and deprived British
colonials could supposedly attain some degree of
social mobility in the Caribbean. Thus, one grew up
with the feeling that anything was possible, that "God
helps only those who help themselves," and that
through education, thrift, discipline, hard work and
planning, one's lot in life could be improved. Of
course, this is not to say that West Indian immigrants
have not benefited from the fact that they were Blacks

from the Caribbean and were accordingly given prefer-
ential treatment by whites, But, such favoritism by
itself is not a sufficient explanation. And, if West
Indians did in the end prosper abroad, it was not due
to the lack of racism. Studies in Britain and the
United States have shown that most West Indians
initially suffered downward social mobility because
they had to accept jobs abroad which were relatively
more menial and less prestigious than those which they
left at home. The fact that they did improve their
status upon migration was due partly to the fact that
the economic opportunities and rewards in America were
relatively and absolutely greater so that West Indians
automatically improved their absolute living standards
in spite of the low levels of their new jobs. But,
since they were upwardly mobile we have to comment on
their personal drive, education, motivation and
discipline. Moreover, relative to Afro-Americans,
West Indian immigrants were a select group of young,
able-bodied, educated men and women, less encumbered
by large extended families, and fiercely driven by
their determination to "make good" in America. Since
they regarded themselves as sojourners their relation-
ship to the American environment was strictly specific
and instrumental: they hoped to acquire quick wealth
and status, return to the Caribbean, and to live as
respectable members of the West Indian colonial elite
or just respectable members of their village communi-
Official immigration figures reveal that some
233,146 West Indians migrated to the United States for
the years 1820-1910. This report shows a steady
increase in the annual rate of West Indian immigration
from 164 in 1820, to 3,171 in 1850 and 11,244 in
1920.11 Of the 40,339 "foreign-born" resident Blacks
listed by the official census for 1910, 24,426 were
from the West Indies.12 For the years 1920, 1930, and


1940 there were respectively a little over 36,901,
49,310, and 41,970 West Indians in America.3
Between 1900 and 1930 it was estimated that
some 300,000 West Indians migrated to the United
States.14 West Indians were pulled to America by the
great labor shortages created by the War and the
unprecedented prosperity which characterized the
industrial boom of the period. At this stage the West
Indian immigration quota was included in the British
quota which was a generous 65,000 a year limit which
was never fully met, During the war years, more than
100,000 workers from the British West Indies were
recruited for agricultural and industrial work in the
United States on a temporary basis,15 but many found
ways of making their stay more permanent.
Except for a decrease during the decade, 1930
to 1940, the West Indian population has constantly
increased numerically since 1870, According to the
Census Report,

The decline of 14.9% which occurred between
1930 and 1940 can be attributed to mortality
losses and to the depression, The effect of
the depression is indicated by the fact that
the number of Negro immigrant aliens admitted
to the United States was smaller than the
number of Negro immigrant aliens who left
the United States. In the more prosperous
twenties, the number of Negro aliens who
entered the United States was far in excess
of the number who departed, and the change
in the direction of migration of Negro aliens
noted in the thirties occurred despite the
increasing restrictions against foreign
workers in the Caribbean.16
However, the McCarran-Walter Act of Z952,
among other things, substantially limited the number

of West Indians able to enter the United States to a
quota of only 800 per year from the Indies per se,
apparently as a way to guard America against Third
World radicals and Communists. The result was that
West Indians turned to Britain. Nearly 11,000 went to
Britain in 1954. The peak was reached in 1962 when
more than 34,000 West Indians arrived in Britain, and
constituted what was cynically regarded as "an unarmed
invasion." Before the McCarran-Walter Act, for every
West Indian migrating to Britain, at least nine went
to America; after the Act, the ratio was reversed.
The 1965 Immigration Act reopened America once more to
Caribbean peoples. Altogether, a sizeable number of
West Indians entered the United States, and of the
45,162,638 aliens who entered the United States
between 1820 and 1970, 1,000,000 or 2% of them are
estimated to be West Indians.7
At no time, then, has the West Indian popula-
tion in the United States amounted to anything more
than 1% of the total Black population, and before 1910,
the proportion was significantly less than .5%. Yet
in spite of this small numerical size they have made
their presence felt and their voices heard in America.
References are constantly made to certain observed
tendencies and patterns in West Indian immigrant
behavior: (a) their over-proportionate achievements
in a wide number of areas, (b) their leadership roles
in a wide spectrum of group activities, and (c) their
tendency to play significant roles in protest politics
though this is oftentimes combined with a noticeable
degree of conservatism. Hence, it used to be said
that: "As soon as a West Indian gets ten cents above
a beggar, he opens a business;" and that "a radical is
an over-educated West Indian without a job." West
Indians in popular stereotype and in fact were pushing
upwards and occupying enviable positions, and thus
their presence was perceived by many Afro-Americans as

inhibiting their social mobility rather than fostering
C. L. R. James challenged his readers to look
at any of the morning papers in England, in the United
States or on the continent of Europe. His bet was
that "you will see West Indians winning distinctions
in every field of endeavour.,. You will see that in
the fields of art and letters we are as distinguished
as in the field of sport. No small people anywhere
produces so remarkable a body of gifted men."18 West
Indian newspapers have often addressed articles to the
same point. The Jamaican Star declared that "the West
Indian-New Yorkers are more numerous and prominent
than their proportions of the total population."19
The Jamaican Times confidently speculated that
"perhaps more than any other group, natives of the
West Indies... have and are playing vital leadership
roles in the business and political lives of Negroes
in the ghetto section of New York."20 Among other
things the West Indian-American (a weekly newspaper
started in 1959 in New York) chronicled the deaths of
"prominent" West Indians in New York. On an average,
four deaths were reported in each issue for the year
1959. Essentially, its requiem for the deceased was:
"He came here young and made it big."
In 1926, Opportunity magazine, an organ of the
Urban League, undertook a survey of "prominent West
Indians in America." A. M. Wendell Malliet was given
the task of documenting the most outstanding West
Indians whose reputations and prominence stood out
both in the Caribbean and in America. Altogether,
Malliet listed a total of 144 such British West
Indians extending through the nineteenth and twentieth
century.21 Writing for the New York Amsterdam News in
1936, Arthur Schomburg declared that "the West Indian
Islands... have given to America many worthy sons and
daughters."22 The November 27, 1943, special issue of

People's Voice commented on West Indians in America:
"Their immigration here dates back to the slave days
and many are the West Indian families dotting the
Carolinas, Floridas and the country in general. Mar-
riage and inter-marriage have practically wiped out
all bounds, until today the American and the West
Indian stand shoulder to shoulder in their fight for
advancement." In 1950, Our World magazine had a
feature article about "The Proud West Indians" who
were supposedly "enriching America with their fine
culture, enterprise and race awareness." Written in
the spirit of facilitating a greater understanding
between West Indians and Afro-Americans, the paper
editorialized that:
A million enterprising people from the
West Indies have broughtwith them to
America a great wealth of economical and
cultural attributes from which the nation
is benefiting. The Negro race, in
particular, is being enriched by this
Contribution. This dominant force has
been made manifest along the Atlantic
seaboard and Gulf coastwhere the majority
of the Caribbean Negroes settled half a cen-
tury ago. The enterprising manner in which
the islanders have accomplished this in
such cities as New York, Chicago, Charleston
and Boston has gained for them a respect
on the part of Americans.23
The New York Amsterdam News in 1951 affirmed
that "even a casual glance about... will show that a
considerable number of leading attorneys, surgeons,
businessmen and labor leaders are West Indians," and
that "they have made a distinctively valuable contri-
bution to the whole scheme of things,,, .Today we see
every manner of leader and businessman of West Indian
descent. Their value to this country may never be


estimated in dollars and cents,"24
Similar conclusions have been reached by
people outside the journalistic community, One early
sociological study of Blacks in Boston concluded that
West Indians have had less difficulty of access to
"the higher avenues of accomplishment." However, the
attainment of those higher accomplishments is attri-
buted to characteristics, allegedly, not as developed
in the southern Afro-American: a high degree of
independence, more stamina, sense of progressiveness,
and cooperativeness.25 A much more recent study
reported that "it is generally believed that Black
professionals are of West Indian extraction in far
greater proportions than could be expected by chance,"
and then proceeded to elaborate in a footnote that
Glazer and Moynihan (1963), in comparing the Black
professional population of the 1930's with that of the
1960's, constituted as much as one-third of that
A series of available Who's Who were also
consulted in our effort to acquire information on the
quantitative extent of West Indian success in the
United States. The earliest and most comprehensive
study of Black leaders, conducted in 1887, catalogued
some 178 "eminent, progressive and rising" leaders,
nine of whom were clearly West Indians.27 This number
represented 5.5% of the total leadership, and when one
considers that West Indians at the time represented
only .4% of the total Black population in America,
this proportion was very high indeed.
Data was extracted from Who's Who in Colored
America for the period 1928-29. This volume contains
information on the Black elite living in the United
States in 1928. According to its compilers, eligibil-
ity has been based on achievement, due latitude being
allowed those persons whose efforts show promise of
future accomplishment or who, by reason of establish-

ing a precedent in some particular work make it
arbitrary that a record be made of the fact," Of
the 1,589 names listed in this volume it was clearly
ascertainable that 1,342 were born in continental
America, 93 born in the West Indies and 154 were of
unknown origin. West Indians therefore represented
6.5% of this compendium of achievers of whom origins
are known. This percentage was indeed significant
against the backdrop that West Indians constituted
only 1.0% of the total Black population in 1930. This
figure of 6.5% was in fact an underrepresentation
because it was most likely that a large proportion of
the 154 unplaced entries are West Indians, due to the
practice of many West Indians to "play down" the fact
of their West Indian origin. Further, since classifi-
cation was on the basis of birth-place only, Blacks
born of West Indian parents in America were listed as
Afro-Americans. Following the census procedure, such
individuals (writer-scholars like Ira Reid and William
Braithwaite) should be added to the West Indian list.
The 1950 Who's Who in Colored America was co-edited by
a West Indian, G. James Fleming, and amounted to a
much more comprehensive survey of the Negro elite in
America. In selecting individuals, the authors
studied and reviewed contemporary books, learned
journals, labor union publications, and minutes of
conventions of national organizations along with the
specialized knowledge of a number of known individu-
als.29 Altogether, a total of some 3,065 individuals
were included, 147 (or 4,8%) of whom were born in the
West Indies. The only other volume of Who's Who
available and which we examined was that of Harlem for
the years 1949-1950.30 Here we found that of the 158
Black notables listed, 30 (or 18,1%) were West
We then turned to United States census data,
where these were available, in order to get further

quantitative indication of the relative economic
status of West Indians, An analysis of census figures
for 1940 shows two significant facts; (1) that a
larger proportion of the West Indian population was
employed compared to Afro-Americans, and (2) even
among those employed, West Indians proportionately had
a larger number of high ranking jobs. West Indians
significantly outdistanced Afro-Americans in the
professional and semi-professional, proprietors and
managers, clerical and craftsmen categories, whereas
Afro-Americans were over-represented in the lower
ranking categories such as farmers and farm managers,
farm laborers and general laborers. This conclusion
was true for both urban as well as rural areas.
The 1960 United States Census also makes
possible a systematic comparison of the relative
occupational and monetary achievements of West Indians
and Afro-Americans in both rural and urban areas. The
figures reveal a significant concentration of West
Indians in occupational categories which carry higher
status: professions, managers, officials and propri-
etors, clerical, sales, crafts and foremen. Afro-
Americans, on the other hand, had a larger proportion
of their employed population concentrated in less
prestigious and less rewarding occupations farmers
and farm managers, operatives, private household
workers and laborers.
One may conclude, therefore, that in 1960, the
median income for employed West Indians was $2,326,
while that of Afro-Americans was $1,519. A breakdown
according to sex categories reveals that the median
income of employed West Indian males was $2,868 and
that of Afro-American males, $2,254. For the females,
the median income of West Indian women was $1,745,
while that of Afro-American women was $1,000. When we
control for urban-rural differences, we still find
that West Indians have reached a higher economic level

All of this was of course, extremely function-
al for the American social system, American society
was hard pressed to give the impression that Blacks,
too, like other ethnic groups, were sharing in
capitalist democracy and influence, especially as
Afro-Americans had aided America in fighting several
wars specifically for democracy, freedom and equality.
In commenting on the American "Protestant Establish-
ment," author Digby Baltzell has expressed the opinion
that there is a crisis in moral authority in the
United States today. And, that situation largely is
attributed to the WASP establishment's unwillingness
and inability to absorb talented and distinguished
members of minorities into its ranks. Baltzell also
points out that because American society is opportuni-
tarian and mobile those in the upper echelon can
maintain their position and its powers and privileges
by making certain that its membership is representa-
tive of U.S. society as a whole.3
Jews, Catholics and others, even the Nazis,
have found a place in America. The existence of a
large Black Afro-American population who were economi-
cally outsiders is a visible flaw in the myth of
Democracy (i.e., the right of all groups to take
advantage of the economic opportunities afforded them
as Americans.)
The "Protestant" Black West Indians, imported
to the U.S. were generally submerged within the Black
category ("African, Black"). Thus they served as
proof that Blacks in general were also making it in
America. And, if their "foreignness" was stressed, it
was with the implied notion that if Afro-Americans
were more like West Indians they, too, could make it.


What has the presence of Black immigrants as America

meant for their Afro-American kinsmen? Through their
aggressiveness and also as a result of the demonstra-
tion effects of their attainments, Black immigrants
have prodded Afro-Americans to continue their struggle
to gain a greater share of the American capitalist
culture, and to substantiate their claim to American
citizenry, This has been the main role of Black
immigrants. An Afro-American scholar has noted that
in 1865 newly emancipated Blacks in America were
possessed by the need to achieve two ideals: attain-
ment of the knowledge that comes from formal education
and receipt of civic and political recognition as
full citizens of the United States. Blacks in America
were fervently supported by West Indians who, used to
being treated as men, were enthusiastic about Black
American pursuit of educational and political
ideals.32 Again, the noted Black historian, John
Henrik Clarke, has on several occasions, made the same
historical observation: "Prior to the Civil War, the
West Indian contribution to the progress of Afro-
American life was one of the main factors in the fight
for freedom and full citizenship in the northern part
of the United States."33
Based on his personal observations, W. A.
Domingo, writing in the 1930's, argued that "it is
they (West Indians) who largely compose the few
political and economic radicals in Harlem; without
them the genuinely radical movement among New York
Negroes would be unworthy of attention." He pointed
out that the opening of the needle trade in New York
to Black women was due largely to the militance of
West Indian women who refused to tamely accept a
subordinate status. The reminiscence of a West Indian
woman reports that "they had signs saying colored were
not wanted. We took them down and marched right in to
apply. You bet, we got the job." For Domingo, the
essence of the West Indian contribution was "the

insistent assertion of their manhood in an environment
that demands too much servility and unprotecting
acquiescence from men of African blood the unwill-
ingness to conform and be standardized, to accept
tamely an inferior status and abdicate their humanity."'3
All of this had profound implications for the
race-class debate which has become the number one
intellectual issue among Black intellectuals. Those
who stress a simplistic theory of race have argued
that all immigrant groups (barring Blacks) have become
assimilated, thereby implying that the prejudices
against blackness has prevented Blacks from being
accepted into the society. These advocates do not
stop to analyse the processes and bases of assimila-
tion of the various groups, the differences between
these groups, and factors other than race which
distinguish Blacks from others and could possibly
explain, at least partially, why Blacks remain outsid-
ers. To be sure the system of slavery, upon which
American society was originally founded, was based
upon racism. And, it is equally certain that modern
capitalist societies like America continue to need
exploitable groups; but there is no longer any impera-
tive necessity for this group to be Black. The system
of exploitation could conceivably shift back to class
exploitation which had characterized European societies
before the emergence of Black exploitation. It is
true that in America, Blacks are still like permanent
outsiders. It is also true that the institutionaliza-
tion of white racism and white economic and political
power have made it extremely difficult for them to
achieve group mobility. But this cannot be the
complete explanation. Other groups (like the Japanese
and Jews) who have historically encountered severe
stigma, ostracism and racism have "made it" in America
and their newly acquired wealth eventually neutralized
racist stigma.

It seems clear, then, that race and color have
become decisive only to the extent that they were mediated
through the resulting Black cultural experience. Stress
should be placed not on the strength of white racism, but
on the adaptability and "Protestant" orientation of the
group. Of course, this is not to deny the existence of
"strengths" in the Black family, in the Black woman, in
the Black man or in Black culture, generally. But such
"strengths" served mainly as the necessary basis of
Black survival as opposed to serving as springboards into
the capitalist system. Where Afro-Americans (Black
Muslims, for instance) and other Blacks (West Indians)
have shown a greater Protestant orientation, they have
likewise shown a tendency to break out into the capitalist
world -- a world in which race and color are secondary
to economic power and the color of money. Racism was
important insofar as it functioned historically to fix
Afro-Americans (and Blacks generally) within a particular
non-capitalistic culture and economic orientation
within which they are still developed because of the
self-perpetuating nature of that culture -- not to
mention the forceful nature of this subjugation, The
early encounter with slavery and colonialism has
systematically crippled their competitive zeal and
entombed them within a stagnant culture of poverty,
just as the apartheid system has done to Blacks in
South Africa. This culture has resulted from Black
efforts to cope with feelings of hopelessness and
despair which developed from the realization of the
improbability of achieving success in terms of the
values and goals of the larger society. They were
aware of middle-class values, and often claimed them
as their own, but they were unable to faithfully
adhere to them.
In America racial groups have constantly
battled each other to gain control of wealth, status
and power. Indeed American society may be depicted

as a process of ethnic competition in which "ethnic
ins," "outs" and "in-betweens" jockey with one another
to gain entry and move up or seek to preserve the
superior positions and way of life they enjoy. In
this struggle,whites, through slavery and colonialism,
have practically eliminated or neutralized Blacks as
competitors. Boxed in tightly by segregation and
racism, Afro-Americans have worked out a far less
rational-capitalistic pace and way of life.
The events of the 1960's to the present lend
support to the general framework sketched here. The
Civil Rights-Black Power Movements were basically
political attempts to tilt the economic balance'in the
favor of Blacks. It was a tacit recognition that
Blacks and whites could not run in the same race
because whites had historically accumulated certain
economic and institutional advantages which operated
in their favor while Blacks were handicapped. Thus.
Blacks began to place emphasis on political power ard
political demands as a means to wrestle certain
economic concessions from whites thereby giving Blacks
more adaptive power in the struggle for group advance-
One must add, as a final note that throughout
their struggles Afro-Americans have always had the
support of their West Indian counterparts. And, as
was stated in an editorial in the New York Amstcrdam
News, the vigorous, insistent voices of West Indians
are heard "wherever the battle for status rages, and
much of the credit for victory in these wars of
freedom is due them....West Indians perhaps more than
any other segment of our population have created a
consuming awareness of the strong link which exists
between all persons of African origin."36


Ira Reid, Negro Immigrants, Columbia University
Press, New York, 1939,

2Sheila Patterson, Dark Strangers, Tavistock Publica-
tion, London, 1963; Michael Banton, Race Relations.
Tavistock Books, London, 1967.

3Chris Mullard, Black Britain. George Allen and
Unwin, Ltd., London, 1973.

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of
Capitalism. (New York, 1958), pp. 54-55.

5Talcott Parsons, "Voting and the Equilibrium of the
American Party System,"in Burdick and Brodbeck,
American Voting Behavior (Glencoe, 1959), p. 82.

6M. Harris and C. Wagley, Minorities in the New .Id.
Columbia, New York, 1958, p. 264.

Andrew Greeley, "The Irish," in Peter Rose, Through
Different Eyes, Oxford University Press, New York,
1973, p. 136.

8William Petersen, "Success Story, Japanese-American
Style" in Minako Kurokawa, Minority Responses,
Random House, New York, p. 170.

9William Caudill and George De Vos, "Achievement,
Culture and Personality: The Case of Japanese
Americans. in Kurokawa, op. cit., p. 179.

10Joan Ablon, "American Indian Relocation: Problems
of Dependency and Management in the City," in Kurokawa,
op. cit., D.203.

11Reports of the Immigration Commission Abstracts
of the Reports of the Immigration Commission, 61st

Congress, 3rd Session, Doc, No, 747, Vol. I,
(Government Printing Office, Washington, 1911), p.
65. These Census figures, and those following, must
be taken as suffering from the usual limitations of
underestimating the number of immigrants.

1Department of Commerce, Bureau of Census, Negro Pop-
ulation in the United States, 2790-1915 (Arno Press
and The New York Times, New York, 1968). Table 5,
p. 63. These figures include as "West Indians" all
Blacks born in the United States with one or more
parent from the West Indies. This proportion is
insignificant for in 1910 it formed only .4% of the
West Indian element.

1From 1920 onwards West Indians were lumped as
"Foreign-born" Negroes, but this category also
includes foreign Blacks born in Europe, Asia, Africa
and South America. In 1920, 1930 and 1940, all
"foreign-born" Negroes amounted to 73,803; 98,620
and 83,941, respectively. In 1910, West Indians
constituted a little more than half of the
foreign-born Negroes; we have therefore assumed the
same proportionate share of West Indians in 1940.
These figures are extracted from The Si.xtee-r
Census of the U.S.A: 1940. Po'ulation. vol. II.
(United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of
Census), Table 4, p. 19.

1Michael Kraus, Immigration, The American Mosaic.
(Van Nostrand, 1966), p. 97.

15James Wickenden, Colour in Britain (Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 1958), p. 5


16Vera C, Foster and W, Hughes, Negro Year Book.
(Foote and Davies, Inc., Atlanta, 1947), Quoted p.5,

17Roy Bryce-Laporte, "Black Immigrants" in Peter Rose,
op. cit., p. 47.

C. L. R. James in an Editorial in We the People,
July 9, 1965, Port-of-Spain.

The Star, December 18, 1970, Kingston.

20amaica Times, June 14, 1958.

2A. M. Wendell Malliet, "Some Prominent West Indians."
Opportunity, November 1926.

2Arthur Schomburg, New York Amsterdam News. August
29, 1936.

23ur World, "The Proud West Indians," January 1950.

2New York Amsterdam News, September 8, 1951.

25John Daniels, In Freedom's Birthplace: A Study of
Boston Negroes. (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914.)
Republished by Negro Universities Press, New York,
1968, p. 170.

2Cynthia Fuchs Epstein, "Positive Effects of the
Multiple Negative: Explaining the Success of Black
Professional Women." American Journal of Sociology,
volume 78, no. 4. The author notes in a footnote
that Glazer and Moynihan found that in examining the
1960 census half of the male college instructors and
presidents were listed as non-white foreign-born.
Approximately 20% of the natural scientists, approx-
imately 40'% of the doctors, and about 0.8% of the

lawyers fell into this category. Among women
classified as non-white foreign-born almost 11%
belonged to various college faculties, 26% were in
natural science fields, approximately 60% of them were
doctors, but no lawyers were listed.

W. Simmons, Men of Mark. First published in 1887.
(Johnson Publishing Company, Chicago, 1970.)

2Who's Who in Colored America, 1928-29. Second
Edition. J. Boris (Editor). (Who's Who in Colored
America Corporation, New York.)

G. James Fleming, Y. Christian Burckel, Who's Who in
Colored America. (Christian Burckel & Associates,
New York, 1950).

B. S. B. Trottman, Who's Who in Harlem, 1949-50.
(New York Magazine and Periodical Print and Publish-
ing Company, New York, 1950.)

3Digby Baltzell, The Protestant Establishment.
(Vintage Books, New York, 1964), p. x and p. xl

32William Ferris, Pittsburgh Courier, January 28, 1928.

33John Henrik Clarke, Marcus Garvey and the Vision
Africa. Vintage Books,(New York, 1973), p. xviii.

3W. A. Domingo, "Gifts of the Black Tropics," in
Alain Locke, The New Negro, p, 346,


36New York Amsterdar Heie, September 8, 1951.

Puerto Ricans in the U.S.: Growth and
Differentiation of a Community

Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueios, C.U.N.Y.


This brief account of the development of the
Puerto Rican community in the United States is part
of an extended first statement of a research plan
for the historical study of Puerto Rican migration
to the United States. In that plan migration is
viewed as an integral feature in the development of
capitalism in Puerto Rico from its very beginnings
in the last century (around 1873) and as a major
component in development strategies since the 1940's.
The inner dynamic of that migration and other popu-
lation changes are seen as responsive to the
successive reorganizations of productive forces
on the Island brought about through the combined
activity of U.S. investors and the U.S. and native
bureaucracies that have sought to provide secure
conditions for accumulation and industrial expansion.

*This introductory note was written by Mr. Frank Bonilla
who, in his capacity as Director of the Centro de
Estudios Puertorriquenos, granted permission for use
of the material which follows. That article is
excerpted from Taller de Migracion -- Conferencia de
Historiografia, abril 1974.

In its present advanced stage that migration assumes
complex and contradictory patterns reflecting pro-
cesses of economic absorption and convergence
between the Island and U.S. economies but also of
differentiation and resistance to further assimila-
tion among the migrant population.


The work of documenting the growth and
the process of class differentiation of the U.S.
based Puerto Rican community is only beginning. In
general, only the contours of these changes in size
and complexity can be substantiated given the gaps
and other defects in census and other official
statistics, and limitations of other surveys, es-
pecially for earlier years. The recent appearance
of extensive reports on 1970 census data and 1974
population survey figures on Spanish origin popu-
lation in the U.S. does help in rounding out the
preliminary analysis that has been undertaken
here.1 However, the extraordinary theoretical
and practical difficulties that a clear delineation
of classes and their sub-components present in
a situation characterized by such intense move-
ment and change counsel great caution in a
preliminary statement of this kind.
The Puerto Rican migration has been character-
ized in these pages and elsewhere as the massive
displacement of contingents of a single class. This
is substantially correct, but can only be the point
of departure for an analysis and not a definition for
all time of the social placement of an entire community.

The work of historical reconstruction yet to be done
requires a more refined understanding of the social
composition of successive migrant flows, the forces
that set specific class sectors in motion, and the
mode of their insertion into the economic activity at
their point of arrival in the U.S. This means, as
well, tracing the process of internal differentiation
within the migrant community and the diversity of
ideological orientations and concrete political
practices that have evolved over time and that have
coexisted within the group and in its relations with
key external forces, both back on the Island and in
the U.S. This is a painstaking enterprise that will
take some years. These brief pages can only help
bring home to the reader how much remains to be done.
As early as 1930, census figures reported Puerto
Ricans residing in the 48 contiguous states. But in 1940
nearly nine in ten were still in New York City, and
ninety-five percent of the migrants in the following
decade settled there.2 As World War II approached,
the Puerto Rican community already had a complex
structure and a rich history of involvement in the
work and politics of the city, a history that is now
beginning to be recovered. It was a small community
that had wrested a foothold for itself in the city in
the 1920's only to be plunged by the depression into
the most menial of factory and service jobs and onto
the relief rolls. Many returned to the Island in that
decade; others remained and were part of the political
struggles of the depression years. The first post-war
wave of newcomers thus came into a community that had
been lifted from a long siege of joblessness by the
war, but that already had its own informal network of
coping institutions and small organizations for
dealing with the larger society.
This organizational background is important,
not only because it has largely been lost from sight,

but because it demonstrates that from a very early
moment Puerto Ricans in the U.S. constructed organiza-
tions aimed at clear political objectives with a class
and national content. During the prosperous decade of
the 1920's, when the Puerto Rican population in New
York City shot from a little over 8,500 to more than
45,000, there were already organizations putting
forward such positions in very explicit terms. One of
these, the Puerto Rican Brotherhood of America (Her-
mandad Puertorriquena), organized in 1923, articulated
in its program of action many of the persistent
orientations that continue to characterize many such
groups to this day:

1. Self-awareness concerning the working
class base of the membership or

2. A concern for mutual assistance and
ethnic defense within the framework
of the city's ethnic politics.

3. Involvement in Island political issues
and a commitment to the advancement
in the U.S. of the cause of Puerto

4. A special sensibility to issues
connected with the U.S. role abroad,
particularly in Latin America and,
most of all, the Caribbean.

5. Autonomy and self-reliance -- an
assertion that Puerto Ricans
themselves will define their problems
and needs and devise their own remedies.3

This was a remarkably comprehensive organiza-
tional and ideological projection coming from a small,
new community of workers, a fragment of a class, torn
loose from its class moorings at home and engaging the

imperial power on its home ground, in new and unfamil-
iar forms. In the very act of affirming Puerto Rican
rights to self determination, this class fragment was
also expressing a primary contradiction of its exis-
tence, for it affirmed these rights on the basis of
the very citizenship it was implicitly repudiating as
an imposed and watered down version of full U.S.
What kind of a community base was there for
organizations like the Hermandad? The migrant popula-
tion of the twenties included more males, more whites,
more townfolk and tradesmen and more people with craft
skills and experience of factory work than the Island
average. But the community in New York was over-
whelmingly working class, especially that living and
organized in the heartof "la colonia" (East and South
Central Harlem). Median earnings of Puerto Rican
workers at the time are reported at around $21 a week
though half that was not uncommon. There was no
hesitation in organizations like the Brotherhood in
stating the class differences between those Puerto
Ricans clustered in East Harlem and the even poorer
Brooklyn Navy Yard neighborhood as against the few
dispersed in higher income, white neighborhoods around
the city. Some 500 small businessmen, mostly bodega
and restaurant owners and perhaps a hundred profes-
sionals rounded out this truncated projection of the
Island social structure in the New York of the
Political organization and activity continued
in this vein into the depression years with local pol-
iticians then beginning to seek active links to Island
leaders and issues as the presence of Puerto Ricans,
especially in East Harlem politics, became more
visible and insistent. In 1934 two thousand Puerto
Ricans marched behind Senator Antonio Barcel6 in
support of a local candidate, Lanzetta. These streets

were later to ring with the name of Don Pedro Albizu
as another local figure, Vito Marcantonio, came to the
defense of imprisoned Nationalists and won the backing
of independence-minded Puerto Ricans. Puerto Ricans
in the thousands marched and demonstrated during these
depression years in protests against unemployment,
relief administration, and in the cause of Spanish
Republicans. A Puerto Rican was elected to the state
legislature in 1937; others were implicated in the
street violence around elections that still broke out
in street rallies and campaigning in the tough, ethni-
cally mixed district. The Marcantonio organization
provided a well-staffed service to Puerto Rican
constituents with job, relief, health and other prob-
lems, a service that he closely monitored himself.5
Similar events and .developments, still to be chroni-
cled, were taking place in other political organiza-
tions and districts around the city, especially in
The first migrants to come after the war, like
those already here, were mainly family people -- young
men and women in their most productive years. Almost
all were literate and came from urban places on the
Island. A majority came with some skills and experi-
ence of work in manufacturing and related activities.
Only a few were unemployed on departure, and a size-
able majority reported full time employment during the
year before migration. Their average schooling
(around eight years) was twice that of the Island pop-
ulation at large. Almost all found work in semi-
skilled or unskilled factory work and services. The
1948 Mills study notes that most migrants increased
their earnings but took a status drop in the nature
of the work performed (i.e., they did not find jobs to
match the skill levels they had attained on the
Island).6 Though this population flowed heavily into
the clusters of settlement already established in

various parts of the city, there was a quick fanning
out from the core neighborhoods. By 1950 at least a
few Puerto Ricans were living in every health district
but one in New York.7
As the migration approached its peak years in
the 1950's, then, this remained an overwhelmingly
working class community (85 percent were in blue col-
lar or service occupations). The migration flow was
still apparently being fed largely from the ranks of
active workers and the most ready reserve of inter-
mittently employed urban labor on the Island (Marx's
"floating reserve"). Existing data on migrant charac-
teristics are neither very reliable nor very exten-
sive, but, as noted earlier, a marked change in the
composition of this flow seems to have occurred by the
end of that decade and-especially by the early 60's.
This second flow was younger and more rural, more
diverse in skill levels, with heavy contingents of
farm and service workers. The migration, by the end
of this major cycle thus seemed to be directly tapping
a "latent" labor reserve in farm and other non-indus-
trial work. Parallel to these flows there was a
steady traffic of farm workers, northward in the
Spring and returning in the Fall. Between 1951 and
1964 an average of about 13,000 agricultural workers
made this trek each year under government contract.8
Uncounted numbers were traveling this circuit on their
own or through private arrangements with crew chiefs
and recruiters engaged directly by U.S. farm operators.
Nevertheless, at the end of the 50's eight out
of ten Puerto Ricans in the U.S. were still in blue
collar and service jobs; fully 53 percent were semi-
skilled operatives. Official unemployment rates for
these workers were already very close to Island levels
(9.5 for men and 11.0 for women). Over the decade
there had been a slight increase in white collar work
(entirely within clerical and sales jobs) and a

University of Florida Home Page
© 2004 - 2010 University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries.
All rights reserved.

Acceptable Use, Copyright, and Disclaimer Statement
Last updated October 10, 2010 - - mvs