About 87,000 Kenyans now live in the United States as immigrants, a Washington-based research institute calculates.
That’s less than the figures offered by some members of the Kenyan community in the US, who have made estimates of 200,000 or higher.
But the number of Kenyans is more than four times the total of immigrants to the US from either Uganda (21,000) or Tanzania (18,000), according to a study last month by the non-governmental Migration Policy Institute.
Kenya ranks fifth as an African country of origin for immigrants to the United States, accounting for nearly 6 per cent of the 1.5 million Africans living in the US as of 2009.
That number does not include students who hold valid visas. But it does include immigrants who lack legal authorisation to be in the United States.
Kristen McCabe, author of the institute’s study on African immigration, says she is confident that the estimate of 87,000 Kenyans comes close to the actual number now in the US, legally and illegally.
Ms McCabe’s calculations are based on the US government’s 2010 census, which, she says, reflects “a lot of outreach to promote participation, regardless of legal status.”
According to a study earlier this year by the Migration Policy Institute, 21 per cent of black African immigrants in the US are “unauthorised,” compared with 30 per cent of all the immigrants now in the US.
Of the 7,421 Kenyan immigrants who came to the United States last year, 44 per cent were admitted because they already had family members in the US. About 31 per cent came as a result of winning the green-card lottery, while 19 per cent entered because they had been given refugee or asylum status. Six per cent were sponsored by employers or gained entry for other reasons, according to the study published last month.
Nigeria is identified as the source of the largest number of Africans in the US at 210,000. Ethiopia, with 148,000 immigrants, ranks as the leading country of origin in East Africa.
Migration to the United States from Africa is increasing rapidly, the institute points out. In 1980, there were 200,000 non-student Africans in the US â€” one-seventh the total today. Only about 2,000 Kenyans were living in the US 30 years ago. Africans still account for only about 4 per cent of all immigrants living in the US.