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Arrest of Anti-Slavery Leader in Mauritania Shows Danger Ohio Immigrants Face if Deported

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Biram Dah Abeid Arrested by Government One Day After The Atlantic Runs Story About Black Mauritanians Facing Deportation, Fearing Slavery

Columbus, OH —  Not much is known about the arrest of prominent anti-slavery leader Biram Dah Abeid in Mauritania yesterday, but this is not the first time he has seen the inside of a Mauritanian prison.  Abeid’s activism on behalf of black Mauritanians has earned him awards from the United Nations, and criticism and even death threats from the government of his own country.  Abeid is currently running for parliament.

Yesterday, The Atlantic published a major piece by Franklin Foer,  “How Trump Radicalized ICE,” profiling Mauritanians who fear deportation from their lives in Columbus, into slavery in their native country.  Abeid’s arrest offers even more evidence that these fears are justified.

In addition to the men profiled in this piece, several Mauritanians are currently being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Morrow County and face imminent removal to a country likely to enslave them.  Attorney Julie Nemecek has been working with leaders in Columbus to return these men to their families in Ohio, filing stays with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“We ask the international community to demand Biram’s immediate release and take every action possible to ensure that the upcoming elections in Mauritania are fair and free,” said Nemecek.

Biram Dah Abeid has been an unrelenting ally in the campaign to get deportations to Mauritania halted again.  In this never-before released video, Abeid talks about the deportation cases while sitting next to Nemecek.  

In an affidavit filed with ICE on behalf of the detainees, Abeid wrote:

The vast majority of the Black Mauritanians, who are subject to final removal orders, have been residing in the U.S. for approximately two decades.  Black Mauritanians include members of the Haratine, Fulani, Wolof, Sonike and Bambara ethnic groups; in Mauritania, these groups are targets for systematic violence and persecution and they are subject to slavery, racism, and discriminatory practices.  The United States government publishes country condition reports for Mauritania, which show that Mauritania still violates fundamental human rights, including arbitrary arrests, torture, and land grabbing.

Despite the dangers that these Mauritanians face if returned to their home country, the Trump Administration’s ICE continues to prepare their deportations, in sharp contrast to their treatment under prior administrations.  As Foer wrote in his article: “At [ICE check-in] meetings, officers would insist that the immigrants go to the Mauritanian consulate and apply for passports to return to the very country whose government had attempted to murder them.”

Foer quotes Ismael, who wears an ICE ankle monitor: “I came to America to be free.  This is not freedom.”

The Atlantic also released a short documentary, “Fear and Anxiety at Refugee Road,” as a companion to the article. The video profiles one of the roughly 3,000 Mauritanian immigrants living in Columbus, many of whom fear deportation.  The man recently sold his house and now lives in a friend’s basement, his entire life packed in a small suitcase — his clothes, his family’s paperwork, and his books.

“I am inspired by Biram Dah Abeid and his unrelenting commitment to ending the horrific human rights abuses taking place in Mauritania,” said Nemecek.  “I implore our own U.S. government to realize that Abeid is right. Mauritanians living in our communities should not be ripped away from their families and send back to a life of slavery.”

Columbus attorney Julie Nemecek is available to talk about her work with Abeid, the pending deportation of Ohioans to Mauritania, and the reasons why the Trump Administration should heed this important civil rights leader’s words and let them stay.