Cleveland, OH — On Monday, the Washington Post published an editorial, “ICE is sending Mauritanians back to modern-day slavery,” that is as clear and condemning as its title. The piece begins:
THE WEST AFRICAN nation of Mauritania is known for its poets, for its reserves of gold — and for its failure to take meaningful action to curtail the pervasive practice of modern slaveholding. Tens of thousands of people there, especially women and children, are believed to be in bondage, which explains why undocumented Mauritanians living in the United States have seldom been deported in the past — because doing so would mean enslavement and even torture for many of them.
That seems not to concern the Trump administration’s deportation agents, who, in a stark departure from past practice, have sent back dozens of Mauritanians to a likely future in bondage. In many cases, the deportees have lived in the United States for many years, during which they were merely required to check in periodically with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The deportees in question are black Mauritanians, who are ethnically distinct, and speak a different language from the majority Arab and Berber tribes that form the country’s majority and its slaveholding merchant class. They have suffered brutal discrimination as well as enslavement for decades. More recently, the government stripped them of citizenship, meaning that black Mauritanians living overseas, including in the United States, are stateless.
Mauritania doesn’t want them, and many of them left under threat of violence from the authorities. Heedless of that, and the grim fate that awaits them if they return, ICE is arresting and deporting them anyway. That is unconscionable.
An editorial and article in the Columbus Dispatch, as well as a story on ABC 6 in Columbus, have been shining a light on how the community is faring locally. The renewed attention to local Mauritanians’ plight was kicked off by a cover story and accompanying short documentary from The Atlantic.
Ohio is home to the largest population of Mauritanians in the United States. Also today, a group of unions, faith groups, and community leaders sent a letter to the Ohio congressional delegation asking them to intervene and stop these wrongful deportations.
The Washington Post editorial goes on cite reason after tragic reason why the Trump Administration should “use its discretion and spare unauthorized Mauritanians who have lived productive lives in the United States from the possibility of a horrific fate. But discretion and common sense have not been the hallmarks of this administration’s immigration policy. The result, in this and other cases, is tragedy and suffering.”