Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Take II: Miami Is Dying

Miami is dying. Around here, that's old hat.Why migrate to the South of Florida when you could be thriving in Sao Paulo? Another story about destination Brazil:

After decades pouring onto to the shores of Miami, Haitians now travel the banks of Amazon rivers into Brazil looking for work. In Brasileia, where the state of Acre borders Bolivia, over 1,200 Haitians are awaiting visas. In Tabatinga, in the state of Amazonas at the triple border with Colombia and Peru, the government is unable to process visas fast enough for Haitians to move on toward larger cities, like Manaus and Sao Paulo.

Thousands of Haitians are arriving, and they are not alone. People from neighbouring countries have been coming to the Brazilian Amazon for better opportunities for a long time. Peruvians and Bolivians increasingly cross into Brazil, seeking work as well as social welfare benefits, whereas Colombians arrive escaping their own civil conflict.

The massive arrival of Haitians reveals that people are coming from afar too. Even Bangladeshis are showing up looking for work, betting on Brazil over Dubai to support families back in Dhaka.

Over 1,600 Haitians have been recently granted visas, and Minister of Justice Jose Eduardo Cardozo is in the process of normalising the legal status of about 4,000 Haitians already in the country with work visas valid for five years. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has promised R$1.3 million per year to help the state of Acre address the emerging needs of these new immigrants.

Quite frankly, the more well-established Cubans never cared for the Haitian refugees. As a graduate student, I spent a few weeks at Florida International University in the TIRES research training program. To my surprise, Miami was intolerant and parochial. I can appreciate why a migrant would forego Little Haiti and give Brazil a try instead.

More importantly, there is much more opportunity in Sao Paulo than in Miami. However, the news isn't all bad for South Beach. Brazilians like Miami real estate because it is cheap:

“We come to Miami to invest because in my country housing is very expensive,” said Claudio Coppola Di Todaro, a hedge fund investor from São Paulo who recently bought a condominium at Trump Towers in Sunny Isles Beach and another at the Trump SoHo in Manhattan (Brazilians also love New York). “We like Miami to go on vacation a few times a year. Many Brazilians do this now.”

The world is spiky, just not in Miami.


Noel Maurer said...

I'm a bit lost here. Miami is dying because Haitians who are unable to make it to the United States go to Brazil?

I do not follow the logic.

I also don't understand how you know that Haitians voluntarily choose Brazil over the United States. Would you mind taking me through the evidence? The arrival of Haitian in Brazilian is not sufficient.

Much obliged!

Jim Russell said...


I linked to an article written by Manuela Picq. I took her assessment at face value. Seems to be an empirical assessment.

Noel Maurer said...

Hi, Jim,

Just read the article. The money quote seems to be this: "The porosity of the Amazon's borders make it a favourite point of entry for immigrants."

E.g., Haitians are going (in rather small numbers) because the main barrier is the $3,000, rather than draconian border enforcement.

Wages for unskilled labor is much much lower in Brazil than in the United States or Canada and racial discrimination at least as high; even with high U.S. unemployment, I doubt that many Haitians would choose Brazil were other options available.

That might change if you got a serious migratory chain going, but I have my doubts.

Jim Russell said...

I doubt that many Haitians would choose Brazil were other options available.

Interesting hypothesis. No historical migrations between Haiti and Brazil?