Since 1990, the Dominican population in the U.S. has more than tripled, from 517,000 to nearly two million. This makes Dominicans the country’s fifth-largest Latino group. With the population rapidly increasing, Dominicans are seeing a growing influence throughout the country.
According to the Pew Research Center, over half of the Dominicans living in the U.S. were not born here. But almost half of those who immigrated have been in the country for more than 20 years. Most Dominicans and Dominican-Americans are concentrated in large East Coast cities, with New York, New Jersey, Florida, and Massachusetts being popular choices.
Though the Dominican population is high in East Coast cities, there are about 11,000 Dominicans living in California. The Golden State offers almost 840 miles of coastline, making it a popular destination for people of all nationalities.
As Dominicans grow in numbers and influence, their culture is starting to become better known. One of the biggest jumps for the Dominican population was the election of the first Dominican-American member of Congress. Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y. was elected in 2016. Other influential Dominicans elected into office include Guillermo Linares, the first Dominican elected to public office in New York, and Angel Taveras, the son of Dominican immigrants who became Rhode Island’s first Latino mayor.
While the immigrant group is rapidly growing, they’re continuing to face issues regarding how to harness political clout in the ballot box. Dominicanos USA, a New York-based nonprofit group has been organizing a voter registration campaign. Recent data shows that a little over half of Dominican-Americans are U.S. citizens, with more than 150,000 registering in just the last two years.
Furthermore, the group is working to mobilize the community’s younger demographic.
Omar Suárez, the director of Dominicanos USA in New York, said in a 2016 interview, “Most of the people we have registered are millennials who were born after 1980.”
Tony Affigne, a political science professor at Providence College, said he “fully expects” more Dominicans to take positions of power. However, like many other Latino groups, their numbers don’t fully reflect their influence.
Despite the difficulties Dominicans, and many other Latino groups, face, they remain a tight-knit community. With February being Dominican Heritage Month, members of the Dominican-American community were celebrated at a Dominican heritage event in the beginning of the month. People like Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa and Fausto B. Pichardo, NYPD Assistant Chief of the Patrol Services Bureau, were honored by Bronx Borough President Ruben DIaz Jr. and a big presence from the Dominican community.
De La Rosa explained that stay in touch with her Dominican roots remains an important aspect of her everyday life.
“I immigrated here as a baby but as a young legislator, not only is it important to my community, it’s important to remember our culture and be able to pass that forward,” she said. “For me, it’s about highlighting members of the community and how the Diaspora has progressed in this country.”