How to Do Outreach to African and Afro-Caribbean Immigrant Communities

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Engaging the African and Afro-Caribbean Community

African/ Afro-Caribbean 

There are many cultural/ethnic groups and languages represented within the designation of “African” (which indicates those born on the continent of Africa) and “Afro-Caribbean” (which indicates those of African descent born in the Caribbean islands such as Haiti, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, to name a few). There are deep, long-standing cultural traditions that serve as a point of pride and connection for African immigrants. Often, second and third generation Africans and Afro-Caribbeans identify with their families’ country of origin rather than identifying as African American or Black. It is very important to pay attention to names, accents, and language when engaging with African immigrants.

The issue of legal status is one that affects the African/Afro-Caribbean Community. While some might think this issue is only relevant to the Latino community that is not the case. Foreign-born individuals that are categorized as African Americans also have interests in understanding who qualifies for health coverage. Those individuals not with protected status are also called “undocumented.”

More than 1.8 million individuals are African or Afro-Caribbean immigrants and nearly 46 percent are naturalized citizens. Because the make-up of these families varies widely, consumers’ comfort level when applying for programs will also vary due to cultural differences.1

  • Language Access: English is not always the language of comfort or spoken by immigrants.
    • Do: identify where immigrant centers are locally located that can provide assistance to consumers who are not comfortable speaking English. (A few languages that can be encountered are Somali, Arabic, Creole, and French).
    • Don’t: ignore the language barrier or suggest that language assistance is not available.
  • Understand the Sensitivity: Individual’s legal status and newness to the United States can be a subject of fear and vulnerability.
    • Do: exercise empathy and understand the challenges and cultural differences new immigrants will endure.
    • Don’t: assume you know a person’s legal status. 
  • Avoid Probing Status Questions: Out of fear, a person who is undocumented often does not want to share his or her legal status with a stranger.
    • Do: provide eligibility requirements based on the categories provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
    • Don’t: ask for an individual’s legal status or attempt to determine if they fall under a legally sanctioned protected status.
  • Provide Resources: Be sure to have a comprehensive conversation around where someone can get application assistance and local health care options.
    • Do: have a list of local health care resources available, and reassure that emergency care is still a federal provision regardless of legal status.
    • Don’t: promise or assure benefits that you are not certain will be afforded to a person/family.

If you do not know the answer to a specific question, be willing to say you do not know the answer. Our role is to provide education about health coverage available through the health insurance Marketplace. You do not need to be an expert in everything! Make sure to note the consumer’s needs/questions/concerns for reference and follow-up as needed. Be sure to emphasize that if they have siblings or children who do qualify for coverage, you can get more information and encourage them to enroll.


There are many statuses that qualify an individual for coverage in the Marketplace. The following is a list of immigration statuses that qualify for Marketplace coverage:

  • Citizen
  • Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR/Green Card holder)
  • Asylum
  • Refugee
  • Cuban/Haitian Entrant
  • Paroled into the U.S.
  • Conditional Entrant Granted before 1980
  • Battered Spouse, Child and Parent
  • Victim of Trafficking and his/her Spouse, Child, Sibling or Parent
  • Granted Withholding of Deportation or Withholding of Removal, under the immigration laws or under the Convention against Torture (CAT)
  • Individual with Non-immigrant Status (includes worker visas, student visas, and citizens of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau)
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
  • Deferred Enforced Departure (DED)
  • Deferred Action Status (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is not an eligible immigration status for applying for health insurance)
  • Lawful Temporary Resident
  • Administrative order staying removal issued by the Department of Homeland Security
  • Member of a federally-recognized Indian tribe or American Indian Born in Canada
  • Resident of American Samoa


1Immigration Policy Center, African Immigrants

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