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Anti-Blackness in Immigration: Team Biden Must Address It

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“President Trump’s animus towards all immigrants is perhaps only surpassed by his particular animus towards Black migrants.” 


Amid the mostly positive news from the Biden Administration regarding immigration, the deportation of Black migrants stands out as an immediate area where White House intervention is needed. ICE continues to aggressively enforce Trump-era policies that target Black asylum seekers and immigrants for exclusion, detention and deportation. If we are serious about addressing racial justice and immigrant justice, there needs to be an immediate and a sustained effort to root out the harsh treatment directed at Black migrants.

In the wake of a court injunction temporarily halting the Biden administration’s 100 day pause in deportations, several deportation flights have left the U.S. bound for Jamaica, Haiti, Cameroon and various other countries in Africa. The message is unmistakable: the deportation of Black people is a high priority for DHS.  

Today’s Miami Herald carries a story about a deportation flight to Haiti with 63 individuals aboard, including a man who has never visited or lived in Haiti. The gentleman was born to Haitian parents who brought him up elsewhere in the Caribbean. His lawyer, Nicole Philips told the Herald, “They knew he was stateless. They knew he didn’t have a Haitian passport. It’s our understanding that he did not have travel documents to return to Haiti and yet they deported him there anyway.”

On Monday, the Haitian Bridge Alliance and UndocuBlack Network released a statement condemning the deportation flights. Guerline Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance said, “This immigration deportation system is cruel and inhumane. It’s callous but not surprising that ICE kicked off Black History Month today by deporting Black immigrants.”

Patrice Lawrence of UndocuBlack Network added:

ICE jumped at the opportunity to deport Black immigrants to the Caribbean, Central America and Sub-Saharan countries almost immediately after the issuance of the unjust, baseless, and legally unsound TRO on the 100-Day Deportation Moratorium. We know that at the top of the list, individuals from Cameroon, Mauritania, Angola, Congo, Haiti and Jamaica are immediately at risk.

According to Todd Schulte of the immigration advocacy group FWD.us:

It is important to be clear: the decision by a Federal Judge to place a temporary restraining order on the Biden administration’s 100 day pause on certain deportations absolutely in no way means that the Biden admin must—or should—be deporting Black asylum seekers to Haiti and elsewhere.

Even yesterday’s announcement of new executive actions regarding asylum and immigration matters are not be enough to address how migrants have been pushed into Mexico and excluded from the asylum process because of Trump measures to block asylum avenues, use the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to expel people or how these and other measures at the border and in the interior fall heavily on Black migrants.

According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: 

President Trump’s animus towards all immigrants is perhaps only surpassed by his particular animus towards Black migrants. Trump and Stephen Miller not only recoiled against people the former President described as coming from ‘shithole’ countries, a disproportionate toll of the Trump and Miller cruelty, exclusion and deportation efforts targeted Black people, as the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and NYU Law Immigration Clinic cataloged in their recent report, The State of Black Immigrants

Undoing the egregiousness of Trump’s policies will not happen overnight, but there are immediate steps needed to address the treatment of Black immigrants today. The deportation flights can be halted and should be a top priority for the newly confirmed DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and his team. Eliminating the policies that force asylum seeking individuals and families to languish in Mexico and ending the blanket use of COVID-19 as an excuse to exclude migrants must be top priorities as well. Both of these Trump-era policies exact a particular toll on Black migrants and must be part of an immediate effort to root out racism in U.S. enforcement, detention and deportation policies. 

Addressing anti-Blackness in immigration would clearly align with the President’s own values and expressed interest in healing racial divisions. The first step can be to stop the deportation flights and then working diligently to reimagine our immigration policies and priorities to erase the worst racially-driven excesses of Trump’s presidency.