A coalition of American civil rights groups is pressing the White House to enact policies to protect undocumented Black migrants from deportation they believe stems from systemic racism.
The Southern Poverty Law Center joined the NAACP, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, the National Urban League and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in cosigning a May 25 letter to President Joe Biden pleading for whatever executive actions are necessary to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The appeal follows weeks of webinars, news releases and statements from faith-based and other immigration advocates protesting and lamenting new White House restrictions on asylum following the May 11 end of Title 42. Nonprofit and ministry leaders along America’s border with Mexico also condemned the recent death of an ailing 8-year-old Panamanian girl in custody at a U.S. customs station.
In their letter, the civil rights groups asked the administration to pay special attention to Black immigrants and those from countries prone to extreme poverty, persecution or war, adding that such action would contribute to social justice and would help an ailing U.S. economy.
“Hundreds of thousands of these long-term undocumented immigrants, including those from African and Caribbean diasporas, uniquely contribute to our society, economy and local communities.”
“The undersigned organizations write to respectfully urge you to immediately take all actions within your authority to protect undocumented immigrants, many of whom have resided here for years, throughout the United States. Hundreds of thousands of these long-term undocumented immigrants, including those from African and Caribbean diasporas, uniquely contribute to our society, economy and local communities.”
The letter includes a specific call for new or renewed Temporary Protective Status designations for undocumented nationals from Sudan, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, among other nations. It also requests the administration give special consideration to Black immigrants because “research shows that Black immigrants and their families fare worse in our immigration system, in part due to the unacceptable but well-documented occurrence of over-policing of Black communities in America.”
The appeal cites statistics from the New York University School of Law Immigration Rights Clinic that Black immigrants constitute 20% of migrants facing deportation for criminal matters while representing only 9% of the undocumented population.
“The American Friends Service Committee further reports that ‘Black immigrants are nearly three times more likely to be detained and deported because of an alleged criminal offense,’ and in 2019, the lengthiest documented ICE detentions were imposed on Black African immigrants,” the letter states.
These are just a few of the injustices the Black community endures in the U.S. immigration system and that were exacerbated by Trump-era attempts to virtually end immigration from several African nations and deny TPS to many nationals, including Haitians, the leaders said.
“There is a moral imperative for us to reform our immigration system and overcome the mistakes of our past, particularly as the Black immigrant population represents one of the most rapidly growing immigrant communities in the U.S. … Today, there are more than 600,000 undocumented Black immigrants in the U.S., many of whom are long-term residents with strong family and community ties,” the letter says. “Due to the lack of congressional action on immigration reform, undocumented Black immigrants face uncertainty about their futures in the U.S.”
President Biden therefore should use all means at his disposal to widen TPS designations, protect Dreamers and reduce the backlog of asylum and other immigration cases, the groups argue in the letter.
Signees provided additional statements underscoring the letter.
“Black immigrants carry the burdens of discrimination on multiple fronts, suffering from a stigma of anti-immigrant sentiment that has surged in recent years, compounded by the stain of anti-Blackness the nation is still struggling to erase,” said Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League. “These communities deserve an equal shot at the American dream, and we urge the Biden administration to take aggressive action to rid the immigration process of the inequities that put that dream persistently out of reach.”
Efren Olivares, deputy legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, urged the White House to place racial justice at the forefront of U.S. immigration policy.
“For too long, anti-Black racism and cruelty have pervaded our immigration system, and it’s time to end unjust treatment and human rights abuses inflicted by our government,” he said. “We must return to our nation’s values of being a nation where immigrants forced to flee due to political instability, violence and persecution can find a home and safe haven in the United States.”