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Black Immigration Justice Advocates Join Rep. Omar To Discuss Ongoing Deportations, Broken Immigration System & Disparate Impact on Black People

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Earlier today, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN-05) joined advocates and Black immigrants to discuss the unique challenges Black immigrants face and the broken systems that perpetuate anti-Blackness in immigration. In the early days of the Biden administration, the disparate impact of our broken immigration, refugee and asylum systems on Black migrants has come into sharper national focus. Speakers discussed how deportations have continued to Black majority countries in the Caribbean and Africa amid persistent anti-Black racism in the immigration system.  

Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN-05), said, “As a member of Congress, I’ve made it a priority to push for a humane immigration system. In the House of Representatives, I’m doing everything I can to provide pathways to citizenship for all undocumented people and reverse the hateful policies put in place by the Trump administration. What we’ve seen with black immigrants is that we are more likely to be detained, more likely to be deported, and less likely to be granted asylum. I was proud to join some of my colleagues last year to conduct oversight around the mistreatment of Cameroonian immigrants in ICE facilities. This past week, I joined my friend Mondaire Jones and many other members of the Congressional Black Caucus on a letter that speaks to very specific problems facing Black immigrants in the United States. Just this week, at least two more deportation flights left for Haiti, in spite of the moratorium on deportation that President Biden tried to put in place. ICE has become a rogue entity. This is exactly why I’ve been saying for years that we need to abolish ICE, and I will continue to say it and continue to work towards making that a reality. ”

Oluchi Omeoga, Senior National Organizer, Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project (BLMP), said, “I am the child of two immigrants from Nigeria who were forced to migrate due to the effects of imperialism. For generations, the US created and exacerbated the conditions that force the migration of Black people globally, with coups, military action, and sanctions that have resulted in mass migration. We are still in the middle of a deadly viral pandemic, and there are still those detained in terrible conditions with no regard for their lives. Anti-Black racism and homophobia are rooted in all aspects of the deportation system, including ICE. In 2020, we saw the deportation of hundreds Black migrants from Jamaica and Haiti, more than 20 babies deported to Haiti in crisis with no asylum proceedings, and they are on the path to breaking their record in 2021. We will not accept a symbolic moratorium. Asylum is a human right and we call on the Biden administration to recognize anti-Black bias in the system and to shut down detention centers, dismantle ICE, and release all of those detained, divest from the prison-deportation pipeline, and invest in education and healthcare with a focus on Black and queer communities.”

“It is important to recognize during black history that our community’s needs and aspirations are being ignored on topics of basic human dignity. Black migrants are criminalized by their blackness and migrant status; it’s not a crime to be Black or a migrant. We are 8% of the non-citizen population, but represent 20% of those facing deportation proceedings. 20% of Black migrants are deported on criminal grounds. We are six times more likely to be held in solitary confinement when detained. There is a long and terrible history of separation of Black families due to colonialism and anti-Black policies, including detention and deportation. Over the past three weeks, several planeloads of Black people have been deported to Latin America and the Caribbean; these deportations are abhorrent, unacceptable, and must be stopped. We must hold President Biden to his commitments to release people from detention centers and enforce deportation moratoriums. He has the power to do all of these things immediately. We urge President Biden to use his authority to stop these deportations and to do so today.”

Nana Gyamfi, Executive Director, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), said, “It’s really important with Black History Month as our backdrop to confront the ways in which Black people are systematically criminalized, excluded, and separated from our families and community. As Black people living in the United States, Black migrants experience anti-Blackness rooted in white supremacy, anti-Black racism, misogynoir, homophobia, transphobia, and capitalism. We are outraged at the callousness with which local, state, and federal governments, and even the immigrant rights movement erases or ignores the needs and aspirations of Black migrants in the discourse of basic human rights and dignity. We are harmed every day by the criminalization of our Blackness and immigration status. It’s not a crime to be Black. It’s not a crime to be an immigrant. But our Blackness and migrant status are criminalized.  There is a long and terrible legacy of separation of Black folks from our families and community that is necessitated or enforced by imperialism, and the colonial violence of anti-Black policies. Several plane loads of Black people have been deported over the past three weeks, and families and communities are being torn apart. These deportations are abhorrent and unacceptable, and they must be stopped. We must hold President Biden accountable to his promises, and he must demonstrate his commitment to racial equity by ending these deportations.” 

Guerline Jozef, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Haitian Bridge Alliance, said “As we speak right now, there is a flight, a deportation flight, about to land in Haiti. And for those who haven’t been following the uprising that is happening in Haiti right now, as far as the people of Haiti are concerned, the term for the President has expired last Sunday, February the 7th. However, the President is stating that his term expires on February 7th, 2022. And from what we understand, that is incorrect. However, Congress is stepping up and standing on the Constitution that says his term has expired last Sunday, February 7, 2021. It’s on the first day of Black history month, the first hours of Back history month that the United States deported Black migrants to Haiti while we are in the middle of an uprising. Understanding that, every single day, since February first, they have had scheduled deportations to Haiti, to Jamaica, to Cameroon, to Angola, and to the DRC. To date, we’ve had several deportations, including yesterday, in a whopping three deportation flights to Haiti. Close to 300 people were deported to Haiti yesterday, including infants and babies as young as one month old, pregnant women who are 36 weeks pregnant, deported yesterday. Understanding that this morning the same thing happened. We see that the administration has the same draconian, evil, inhuman practice left behind by the Trump administration. We had hoped that based on their promises, coming to our committees, asking for all those things, those promises, that things would’ve been different, specifically for Black immigrants. Therefore, we are asking -no we are demanding- that all deportation flights stop immediately.”

Daniel Tse, Organizer and Asylum Task Force Coordinator at the Haitian Bridge Alliance, said, “After fleeing from persecution in Cameroon and traveling the dangerous journey to the U.S., I was placed in shackles and locked up in cages, upon arrival to the border. I was traumatized, not knowing why I was placed there. For almost a year I had been transferred from one detention center to the next and was finally, with my law background, able to defend myself and be granted asylum. When I was released, I knew I had to fight for my brothers who were detained or stopped at the border. We are still deporting people back to all these dangers occurring in their home countries. People are just seeking for freedom, which is their right. We must remind and demand that the Biden administration continue on their promises and ensure these flights be stopped. We have seen people being treated unjustly, treated like animals and have done nothing wrong. We ask for TPS for Cameroonians so that these people can be provided safety.”

Nekessa Opoti, Co-Founder of the Black Immigrant Collective and BAJI Communications Director, said, “It’s Black history month, and we’re seeing heightened deportations of Black immigrants. Many are eligible for asylum, and there is no reason they should not be given permanent protections. We’ve seen the Biden Administration put out new directives and orders around immigration recently, but they could go much further to address the unique needs of Black immigrants.”