Ethiopian immigrants are a newer immigrant group that began migrating to the United States at the end of the twentieth century because of political and economic unrest.[i] As a result, many Ethiopians sought asylum in the United States.[ii]
The Ethiopian Civil war began with the Marxist Derg government overthrowing the emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, in September 1974 and lasted until May 1990. The Civil War in Ethiopia affected both the upper and lower classes. In November 1974, two months after the Derg government took power, the new government executed all high-ranking officials from Emperor Haile Selassie’s government. In response to the violence, the U.S. government granted the Ethiopians who came to the United States on tourist or student visas permission to stay in the country indefinitely, through “extended voluntary departure” or asylum.[iii] An example of an Ethiopian immigrant who came to the United States on a tourist visa and requested asylum was Rhoda Worku. The Ethiopian Civil War affected Rhoda Worku directly; her parents, brothers, and uncles were in Haile Selassie’s cabinet, and were executed in 1974 with the other officials when the Derg government came to power. Once Worku was given the chance, she left Ethiopia and immigrated to the United States. When she first arrived in the United States she stayed with Presbyterian missionary family in California. Soon after she arrived, Worku applied for asylum. It took years but she was eventually granted asylum by the United States government. Today, Worku lives in Alexandria, Virginia and owns a successful restaurant, the Caboose Cafe.[iv]
Throughout the many years of warfare that Ethiopian Civil war created, more and more Ethiopians immigrated to the United States. The number of immigrants coming to the United States from Ethiopia, doubled every ten years from 1980 to 2000. Many Ethiopian decided to settle down in D.C. Metropolitan area. [v]
[i] Elizabeth Chacko, “Ethiopian Ethos and the Making of Ethnic Places in the Washington Metropolitan Area,” Journal of Cultural Geography, 20, no. 2 (2003): 21-42.
[ii] Jill H. Wilson and Shelly Habecker, “The Lure of the Capital City: An Anthro-geographical Analysis of Recent African Immigration to Washington, DC” The Brookings Institution, (April 2008), 443-448.
[iii] Caryley Murphy, “Top Ethiopian Diplomat Here Requests Asylum,” Washington Post, May 8, 1984.
[iv] Rhoda Worku, “Interview with Rhoda Worku,” Interview by Krystyn Moon, Alexandria.gov (May 20, 2015), 5-7.
[v] Wilson and Habecker, 443-448.