Caribbean ‘green card’ holders increase, but future hikes uncertain

Author:  Gordon Williams
The stream of United States permanent residents from the Caribbean has been steady over the past decade, but it remains unclear if the flow will continue uninterrupted as President Donald Trump’s administration takes root.

usa greencard smlAccording to information obtained from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the rate of Caribbean nationals granted permanent residence or “green cards” has been constant since 2007, and even increased in several cases, especially over the past year.

Of 10 Caribbean community (CARICOM) nations listed under the category “Western Hemisphere” by the USCIS between 2007 and 2016, only one – Suriname – did not show an increase in the number of nationals issued U.S. permanent residence over the past year. The Dominican Republic, for example, supplied 54,376 U.S. permanent residents in 2016, up from $45,069 in 2015. Some 9,072 “green card” holders were confirmed from Cuba last year, 2,871 more than in 2015.

Haiti registered 18,581 U.S. permanent residents in 2016, over 5,500 more than in 2015. Some 15,549 “green card” holders were confirmed from Jamaica in 2016, up from 10,822 in 2015.


Legal experts citing U.S. laws, which allow families to “file” for permanent residence for relatives, believe the trend won’t stop soon. According to Jamaican American attorney Khalfani Omari Fullerton, Caribbean nationals maintain the option to make the U.S. their home.

“It’s gonna continue unless they change the law,” Fullerton told Caribbean Today. “Most Caribbean people come in with families.”

However, since taking office on Jan. 20, Trump has stepped up U.S. focus on immigration. Reports have surfaced that his administration intends to review - and possibly cut - the categories of family members who may be included in permanent resident filings.

The president signaled his intention to crush illegal immigration by securing the U.S. border and deporting undocumented aliens. Trump has promised to “keep immigration levels, measured by population share, within historical norms.” He also claimed it is the “right” of the U.S. “as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish here.” His supporters have moved lock step with the president.

“They’re not pro-immigrant,” said Fullerton, “because it’s not in their interest.”


That interest is steeped in politics. Many Republicans, including key figures in the current Trump administration, believe immigrants, once they become U.S. citizens, tend to vote Democrat.

That view could adversely affect thousands of Caribbean nationals. Many have received U.S. permanent residence while living as undocumented aliens in the country.

Trump’s initial executive order travel ban on some Muslim majority countries indicated his willingness to prevent even “green card” holders from entering the U.S. While there isn’t a huge Muslim community in the Caribbean and versions of Trump’s travel ban have so far been blocked by U.S. courts, the president’s expressed intent could eventually impact the rate nationals from the region who are granted permanent residence in the future.

Still, according to USCIS statistics, there has not been any significant drop-off in permanent resident approvals since 2007 and, in most cases, the numbers have stayed consistent or increased dramatically. That suggests Caribbean nationals are still keen on making the U.S. their permanent homes and at least - for now - America has been willing to welcome them.