A combination of political turmoil and economic recession in Brazil has forced thousands of Brazilians to leave the country in the last years. But cities like New York haven’t been able to keep up with the influx of Brazilian immigrants and a lack of services offered in Portuguese has hindered their efforts to reach the American Dream.

The intimate connection between the economic and political performance in Brazil and the people’s decision to stay or go is not new.

Brazilian Miriã Trindade first came to New York when she was 21-years-old. The country was facing political problems and many people were loosing their jobs. She and her husband were forced to leave the country looking for better opportunities.

“In 1988, it happened what is happening now and we had the opportunity to come [to the U.S.] because I had family here. They had a construction company.”

Brazil is considered the world’s second largest emerging market and Latin America’s biggest economy, but has gone through a series of economic crisis over the past three decades and in the past 13 years – when the Worker’s Party came into power – corruption has elevated to systemic levels, according to experts.

“Since the mid-1980s, Brazilians have been buffeted by high rates of unemployment and underemployment, low wages, a high cost of living and until 1994, out-of-control inflation (…) It was within this setting that Brazilians began leaving Brazil in significant numbers,” says Maxine Margolis, a professor of anthropology at the University of Florida who has widely covered the Brazilian community in the U.S., wrote in her book Goodbye, Brazil: Émigrés from the Land of Soccer and Samba.

For the most part, Brazilians coming to the U.S. are entering the country with tourist visas and are staying longer than their visas allow, according to Margolis. From 2010 to 2015, the number of nonimmigrant visas issued for Brazilians increased 67 per cent.

In addition, the number of Brazilians “suspected nonimmigrants” who exceeded their authorized periods of admission and remained in the U.S. was 35,707 in 2015 – from 2,350,140 expected departures – according to figures from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

New York is home to one of the largest Brazilian communities in the country and figures from the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs show that the U.S is the main destination country for Brazilians.

Last summer, the community-based organization Cidadão Global saw an increase of 30 percent of new members and about 50 percent of the total members are undocumented, according to Stephanie Mulcock, executive director of the organization, which opened its doors in 2011.

Despite the increase in the number of Brazilians coming to the U.S., fleeing the economic and political crisis in their home country, they have struggled finding services and resources offered in their mother language. Most Brazilians have had to learn Spanish to get access to these services, since it is a more similar language to Portuguese than English.

Trindade has attended a program offered by the Neighborhood Housing Services of Northern Queens, which provides information to people who want to buy a house – what she calls “The American Dream” – but it is only offered in English and Spanish.

The lack of access to Portuguese translation, however, is more critical when it has to do with legal issues.

Trindade has been victim of fraud three times, loosing thousands of dollars, and her husband was charged for identity theft after being deceived by a false immigration attorney. He had to pay a fine of $117 dollars and do community service.

Trindade and her husband are now U.S citizens. She works as a housekeeper and babysitter. Her husband works in construction. Despite the setbacks, Trindade hopes that by the end of the year she will buy her own apartment.

Thus, building a better live in the U.S has its hurdles. The fear of being deported, unawareness of the American law or just the fact of not knowing the language has kept immigrants silent.

Brazil is currently witnessing one of the worst economic recessions in decades, with an unemployment rate of 11.8 percent (12 million people), in the quarter ending in August, and a 3 percent decrease in wages.

The combination of slow economic growth, a large share of all public expenditures used to pay pensions (the retirement age is around 50-years-old), low gross savings (only about 15 percent of its GDP) and a lack of policies to make some economic sectors more competitive, coupled with a corruption scandal involving top politicians, has created the conditions of the current and deep economic crisis, according to Marcos Troyjo, an expert on Brazil’s politics and economy and Co-Director of the BRICLab at Columbia University.

In 2014, Brazilian authorities started an ongoing investigation on money laundering that has uncovered a massive and systemic corruption case involving state-owned oil company Petrobras. In August, president Dilma Rouseff was impeached on charges of manipulating the federal budget and Eduardo Cunha, a Brazilian legislator who led the impeachment of Rousseff, was arrested at the end of last month accused of corruption.

Although Brazil’s economy has started to improve – with the Brazilian stock market up 46 percent this year alone and the appreciation of the Brazilian Real against traditional market currencies like the dollar – Troyjo says that since the contraction was so deep, “it will not be until 2020 when the next presidential elections take place that the economy will be robust again.”

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