By The Economist JULY 9, 2015
The Eritrean Cultural & Civic Centre in Washington, DC is housed in a modest building near the city’s convention centre. Despite its name, it is less of a centre and more of a bar and restaurant where Eritrean cab-drivers, students and pensioners chat politics and chow down on lamb stews served on spongy “injera” bread. On its notice board are adverts from a shipping company, an immigration lawyer and a taxi firm seeking drivers. Eritrean flags hang from the ceiling and the walls are lined with trinkets from the country.
With roughly 170,000 African residents, Washington and its surrounding suburbs have, proportionately, the largest African-born population of any large city in America. Their numbers are still small: even in Washington, Africans make up just 14% of all immigrants, and 3% of the total population. But they are among the fastest growing. Between 2000 and 2013—the latest available figures—the number of people from sub-Saharan Africa in the United States more than doubled, from 690,000 to 1.5m. Since 1980 it has increased more than tenfold. Their experience reveals the successes of America’s unusual legal-immigration policies. Over time, their growing numbers may help to change what it means to be “African-American”.
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