Brazilians in America: 1.3 Million and Growing Fast

Brazilians in Boston, MassachusettsNew data released by the Brazilian government put the number of Brazilians living overseas at between 2.3 and 3 Million. Half of these emigrants have chosen the United States as their temporary or more often as their permanent new land.

Formally, Brazil has 1.8 million emigrants. But this number includes only those Brazilians who took the pain to tell the Brazilian consulates of the countries they moved to about their new address.

Brazilian government’s estimates use data from foreign countries and consular services such as power of attorney, certificates and affidavits rendered to Brazilians overseas.

The official estimate is that the Brazilian community in American soil has reached  1.3 million, including legal and illegal emigrants. After the USA, the main concentrations of Brazilians are in Paraguay, Japan and Portugal.

This information was presented May 12 by  Manoel Gomes Pereira, the director of the Foreign Ministry’s Department of Brazilian Communities Abroad, during a briefing of the Senate’s Foreign Relations and National Defense Committee. The senators were discussing Brazilian emigration.

From 1996 to 2003, there was an average of 16 thousand new Brazilians entering the United States every year. That means 44 new Brazilians every day, including weekends and holidays. By 1996 the U.S. had less than 600 thousand Brazilians. Seven years later, this number had jumped to 720 thousand.

Illegal Brazilian immigrants have been frequently in the news in recent months due to the record number of those detained by the U.S. immigration police while trying to cross the Mexican border.

While 80% of all those arrested by the U.S. Border Patrol are Mexicans, the number of Brazilians is rising fast. Brazilians are already number 4, after Mexicans, Hondurans and Salvadorans.

Numbers from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington D.C., show a considerable growth in the number of illegal Brazilians arrested along Mexico’s board. Those detained grew from 3,105 for the whole year of 2001 to 17,445 for just the first four months of 2005.

This sudden jump is worrying authorities in the U.S. and Brazil. So much so that the U.S. Customs and officials from the Brazilian government have joined forces to study the matter.

According to Pereira, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry official, the economic crises starting at the beginning of the 1980s were the main reason for Brazilians’ exodus.

In spite of revealing underestimated numbers, the 2000 U.S. Census had already shown a jump in the number of Brazilians living in the United States.

According to the American Census, in 1980, there were 47,965 Brazilians in US territory. This number had risen to 247,020, 20 years later.

Dreaming of America

Brazilian sociologist Ana Cristina Braga Martes, of São Paulo’s Getúlio Vargas Foundation, has been studying Brazilians’ emigration to the United States for more than ten years.

In 1994 she went to Boston for her first research on the subject that would be her thesis. She repeated the same study seven years later and now intends to interview those Brazilians who after living in the US decided to go back to Brazil.

Martes was just interviewed by weekly magazine Isto É (cover date: June 1st, 2005)about her work and drew a profile of the typical Brazilian who emigrates to the United States:

“In 1994, when I arrived in Boston to do my first research, there was a myth that the Brazilian immigrant was man, young, alone and from the city of Governador Valadares, in the state of Minas Gerais. It is possible that at the beginning the profile was like that. But the research showed another scenario: men and women, single and married in the same proportion.

“The majority, 90%, were between 21 and 45 years old. Regarding the origin in Brazil, 47% came from the state of Minas Gerais, 15% from Rio, 12% from São Paulo, 10% from Espírito Santo and 8% from other states. It is a national phenomenon, not limited to Minas.

“The educational profile is the following: people who did not manage to finish college. They entered college,  they did not finish it though or they graduated from a school that is not valued by the labor market. Those who do not have much expectations here in Brazil end up going away.

“They are people with a reasonable level of information and with much determination, willing to take risks. Imagine a person who can’t say a word in English and who decides to live in the U.S! He all but becomes a child again,  he can’t speak, can’t read, can’t make himself understood in the street. You need to have lots of courage.”

And what are Brazilians doing in America? “They do not work under a contract, don’t have formal benefits, and are poorly paid. They have jobs that the native population mostly does not value. They work as waiter assistants, pizza deliverers, shoeshiners,
maids, in the civil construction. Some enter a life of prostitution.”

The sociologist revealed that she made a disturbing discovery: even Brazilians who are illegally in the U.S., without documents, feel that their rights as a citizen are more respected in the U.S. than in Brazil. Her conclusion: because of this more and more Brazilian are willing to try everything to realize their American dream.

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