View Full Version : Brazilian Immigrants in the United States

09-04-2016, 01:24 AM
Brazilian Immigrants in the United States
JULY 13, 2016

Brazilian migration to the United States—a relatively small flow until recent decades—began to grow significantly in the early 1980s, driven in large part by a series of economic crises in Brazil. The Brazilian immigrant population in the United States doubled during the 1980s, almost tripled in the 1990s, and then stabilized following the Great Recession of 2007-09 (see Figure 1). In 2014, 336,000 Brazilian immigrants lived in the United States, representing 1 percent of the 42.4 million immigrants in the country. Approximately one-fifth to one-third of them are in the United States without authorization, according to Migration Policy Institute (MPI) estimates.

Economic and social conditions in Brazil, together with changes in U.S. immigration policy, have shaped the nature and scope of the Brazilian flow to the United States. During the 1980s, most Brazilian immigrants entered the United States on tourist visas, and some overstayed their visas to work for a couple years before returning to Brazil. Once personal finances and savings from the initial trip were depleted, some Brazilians returned to the United States to again take up work—a pattern known as "yo-yo” migration. However, in the late 1990s U.S. policymakers tightened tourist visa requirements for Brazilian nationals. More broadly, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 also made it much more difficult for any individual who had previously resided in the United States without authorization to re-enter through legal channels.

Such changes made cyclical migration patterns between the two countries more complicated. Brazilians who were already in the United States without authorization tended to stay longer, while those seeking to enter increasingly did so by crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Border apprehensions of Brazilians grew dramatically from 88 apprehensions in fiscal year (FY) 1992 to 32,103 in FY 2005. This increase made Brazilian nationals the fourth most apprehended in FY 2005 (after Mexican, Honduran, and Salvadoran immigrants). However, this flow declined significantly starting in October 2005 when the Mexican government began requiring Brazilians to obtain visas to enter Mexico. The number of Brazilians apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border plummeted to less than 3,000 in FY 2006 and has remained roughly at the same level since. In the meantime, annual legal immigration from Brazil increased, from less than 5,000 immigrants in FY 1992 to more than 16,000 in FY 2005, before decreasing slightly to 10,000 in FY 2014, with most qualifying as the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

In recent years, factors including economic recession in the United States, stepped-up U.S. immigration enforcement, and improved economic prospects in Brazil have led a significant number of immigrants to return to Brazil, especially those who are unauthorized and/or employed in low-skilled jobs. Meanwhile, the number of Brazilian international students in the United States has more than tripled, from 7,000 in 2005 to 24,000 in 2015—in part thanks to increased investment by the Brazilian government in international scholarships.







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