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Black Immigrant Advocates Join Current and Potential TPS Holders to Urge Biden Administration Designate Cameroon, Haiti, and Mauritania for TPS

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A recording of the call is available here. 

Earlier today, immigrant advocates and current and potential Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders gathered on a press call to urge the Biden administration to act swiftly on TPS designations in Cameroon, Haiti, and Mauritania and to discuss the unique challenges Black immigrants face. Deportations have continued to Black majority countries in the Caribbean and Africa, while anti-Black racism in the immigration system remains persistent. Amid mounting pressure to designate TPS for Haiti, dire conditions in Cameroon and Mauritania, and inaction from the Biden administration, those gathered on the call discussed the path forward and joined TPS holders and those who would benefit from protection to call for urgent change. 

Daniel Tse, Asylum Task Force Coordinator at the Haitian Bridge Alliance said, “As an immigrant with firsthand experience in the horrible treatments and eminent discrimination faced by African migrants, it’s important that the Biden administration acts fast to protect vulnerable Cameroonians seeking refuge by granting them Temporary Protected Status. We all know it’s not humane what’s happening in Cameroon, they might not show it on TV but there are arrests, killings, and violence. The Cameroonian government has murdered bystander citizens in its attempts to punish, intimidate, or kill non-violent political demonstrators and activists, and has allowed its assault on Anglophone Cameroonians to create a humanitarian crisis in the country. These conditions are terrible, and people are here in the U.S. to seek freedom and a chance to live, but even then we’re faced with cages in detention. After passing through jungles and oceans to seek freedom in the U.S, they are deported back to their graves. Migrants who are returned to Cameroon are at high risk of death, serious injury, or indefinite imprisonment. The continued armed conflict and attendant political turmoil in Cameroon are precisely the reasons why TPS was created: to protect vulnerable people from crises in their home countries — people who fear for their lives. America has the moral obligation to protect Cameroonians from this crisis and save lives.”

Austen, a Cameroonian fleeing state violence who would receive TPS and CASA member said, “It has been a dire situation. In Cameroon I was a teacher and what is going on and what has been going on started with teachers. It is what it is today because teachers decided to stand up. As we hope for a better future we also hope on behalf of the teachers. I always give a moment of silence to my slaughtered brothers and sisters back home, including my dear father who was killed in the process as well as my own brother and cousin. My story is a sad one but I direct my message to the President of the United States of America. I plead on behalf of all Cameroonians that please, at least for now, we need TPS. People are dying everyday including children, women, and old people. TPS is the only way by which at least our people will be protected. I have visited government offices and the way I was received just because I presented myself in English, showed me that racism is not just a matter of color but it also extends to the culture and tradition of your own heritage. Being a teacher in my country became so dangerous for me. I decided to stand up against how my people were being treated and I said, “Even if it means my life being taken away, I will die happily because I died fighting for my people.” My father was an activist and a member of Southern Cameroon National Congress. He died fighting for his own people. That is why I decided to follow in the footsteps of my father and make sure every human being is respected. 

The day I was released from a U.S. camp in San Diego, that was the day I got a message from home telling me the military came looking for me but because they couldn’t find me, anyone they saw around my home was in grave danger. I remember the first day I was arrested. They came into my school and I was detained. I was accused of antiterrorism and being in possession of anti government materials and I then was charged with possession. They found my father and he was killed because he could not provide any information about my whereabouts. My home was searched without a search warrant. My wife and children are living in the forest because they cannot afford to show themselves in public. I grew up and I decided to fight for the people and to stand for those who have been tortured. I decided to stand against rape and against inhumane treatment. In the country I come from the government takes pleasure in those who are mistreated but I said no to it. We are all brothers and sisters. Let’s live as one family, no matter where we come from.”

Guerline Jozef, co-founder and Executive Director of Hatian Bridge Alliance, said, “As you heard from my colleague and community members, it is imperative that we find a way to provide protection to Haitians through TPS. Granting TPS to Haiti will provide immediate protections as we continue to push for permanent solutions. I am here to provide a background on what is happening in Haiti right now, and why it is important that President Biden reinstate TPS for Haiti immediately. As we look toward the turmoil that is happening in Haiti such as kidnapping, violence, and other dangerous situations, large scale deportations by the Biden Administration have continued. The earthquake has continued to leave millions of people in complete hopelessness. We are asking President Biden to keep the promise he made to the Haitian American community during his campaign where he committed to protecting the Haitian community. It is time for President Biden to redesignate TPS for Haiti to protect people like Rose, who have been fighting for the United States as essential workers during this pandemic ”

Rose Tilus, Nurse Practitioner, TPS Holder from Haiti and member of the Haitian Bridge Alliance said, “I am a Haitian national with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and have been in the U.S. since I was a teenager. My parents sent me here out of fear for my safety, and I have lived in the U.S. longer than I’ve lived in Haiti. I, along with other Haitian TPS holders, live in constant fear while our status remains up in the air. We don’t know what the future holds. Haiti still hasn’t recovered from the earthquake that originally merited a TPS designation, and since there has been more political and civil unrest including kidnappings, rape, violence… Haiti is a very unsafe place and no one should be sent back to those conditions. I testified in front of Congress just yesterday to demand a pathway to citizenship for essential workers, and I’m on my lunch break right now as a nurse practitioner who has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve contracted Coronavirus in my workplace, but I will continue to work on the frontlines until this virus is under control. TPS holders are productive members of society — we are taxpayers and keep this economy running. And when we come forward to demand protections from deportations and a pathway to citizenship, it’s the right and human thing to do. We will keep fighting to bring resolution and results so that Cameroonians and Mauritanians and Haitians will be able to call themselves citizens soon.”

Houleye Thiam, President of the Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in the US said, “The energy needed to keep up this fight is important. It is important for people to keep telling their stories and advocate for Black immigrants. I have not seen a country where Black immigrants are not discriminated against in some way. In the 1980’s in Mauritania we suffered mass killings of our elders. My father and other intellectuals were sent to jail from 1986-1990 because they dared to write about discrimination. In the late 80’s we had an attempted coup and eliminated officers who were all Black and the perpetrators of those crimes continue to run free with no accountability. The victims and their families could still run into the people who were responsible for killing their families at the store or at the beach, and they cannot do anything about it. In 2007 slavery was criminalized, but what they put in the books is not what is practiced. They try to show they are doing what is right but it’s apparent what they are doing is wrong. No one should be deported back to a country facing risk of enslavement where their government strips them of their own citizenship and birth certificates. TPS is crucial because of all the abuses that have been happening in Mauritania for years and continue to happen. Mauritanians deserve TPS until they can get the government to change its ways.” 

Awa Harouna, daughter of Mauritanian immigrants whose father would benefit from TPS and who was featured in Living Undocumented Netflix Documentary said, “My family is originally from Mauritania, and I am  currently a U.S. citizen and have been living in the U.S. since I was a child. It has been over three years since my father was released from ICE detainment, but it is no longer the way it once was before his detainment. There is still an echo of what happened. My father would benefit from TPS to prevent him from being returned to Mauritania, where his future would be unknown and dangerous. When he was first detained it came as a shock, and it was the most traumatizing thing I have ever gone through. His absence left a noticeable hole in my family. His detainment taught me about my own strength but also showed me how much I had relied on him all these years. Whenever people talk about how migrants should come legally, they come from a place of ignorance. They don’t understand why people would leave their homes. They don’t understand the dangerous situations that prompt people to leave their home countries and families. If I have one thing to say to the Biden administration it is this: don’t break up families. No child deserves to wonder where their parents are, and no parent wants to be faced with worry about how their child will be taken care of.”

“Many of us are happy to see that the Biden administration is reversing course on many of the previous administration’s draconian immigration policies, however there still remains a lot that needs to be done,” said Diana Konaté, Policy Director at African Communities Together. “The administration currently has an opportunity to more boldly and broadly use the humanitarian tools of TPS and DED to protect large numbers of immigrants currently living in the U.S. TPS and DED can be used to protect individuals who would be put in life threatening situations, should they be required to return to their home country. The administration has an opportunity to protect upwards of 2.3 million such immigrants from 18 countries, including Cameroon, Haiti, and Mauritania.  We are urging them to do so now.”