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Mojúbàolú Olúfúnké Okome and Bertrade Ngo-Ngijol Banoum - page 10 / 27





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Africans on the Move: Transnational, Intranational, and Metaphorical Migrations

chances of migrants from the colony into the metropole is confirmed, since Filipino migrant women who work for international civil servants in New York and Washington, D.C. are incorporated into the US labor market as domestic servants who are abused and exploited. As for Caribbean women, although they seek every possible opportunity to gain entry into the US, they are yet to be treated equitably, and must fight tooth and nail to gain legal status. Equality to a great extent remains an elusive dream in matters of immigration and consequent access to jobs and humane treatment by employers.

Why do immigrants from Africa decide to change their status to residency and citizenship in the United States? Are African immigrants becoming more or less integrated into their communities of settlement? Takougang attributes the increased influx of African immigrants to the US to the combination of serious economic woes in their countries of origin and more favorable immigration laws, as well as harsher immigration laws in Europe which have accompanied the slowdown in Europe’s economic growth in the 1990s. The decision to seek permanent resident status or citizenship is also influenced by the resignation by many African immigrants to the permanence of their emigration, and to the desire to become involved in the political process. Many African immigrants could also be said to be in active pursuit of “the American Dream”, most of them in the larger cities where they can benefit from established networks of African immigrant communities and/or they can draw on the assistance of kith and kin to secure temporary housing and navigate the tortuous process of settling down.

What determines the community of settlement, particularly for long-term immigrants? As the numbers of African immigrants increase and as they gain more of a foothold in the US, many choose to leave the hustle and bustle of the cities for life in smaller towns and the suburbs. Takougang argues that such decision is spurred by the existence of more congenial social, economic, and political circumstances. The need for jobs is what most of all, drives the decision to settle down in one locale as opposed to another. The jobs taken, particularly at the initial stage of arrival, tend to bear no relationship to the skill level or educational training of or even experience of the new immigrant. Thus, the lower level service jobs are almost assured to be occupied by new immigrants, African included, regardless of skill, education, experience.

Takougang also indicates that there are niche economies developing, particularly in cities that have experienced the heaviest inflows of African immigrants. The businesses that comprise these economies are established by, or to provide services for African immigrants in these cities. Takougang’s acceptance of the argument that “African women . . . . have traditionally been in the background of most traditional African family structure now find themselves at the forefront of economic opportunities in the United

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