Our American Dream: The Plight of Black Immigrants in the U.S.
November 24, 2021 by Eshe Lovely
In the United States, immigration is at the heart of an ongoing debate that has been at the forefront of political discourse for years. Policymakers have to consider security, humanitarian, and economic factors. Congress has struggled to agree on comprehensive immigration reform and has achieved few policy decisions in the executive and judicial branches of government. Comprehensive immigration reform is an attempt to address the following: the legal status of undocumented immigrants, interior enforcement, border security, and demand for labor. As of 2019, immigrants made up 14% of the U.S. population. A 2020 Gallop poll showed that 77% of surveyed Americans view immigration as favorable to the United States, marking the highest number of positive responses to that question within two decades. It’s also notable that a majority of those surveyed believed that illegal immigration is a serious threat and that immigration rates should not increase. Former President Donald Trump’s election campaign against immigrants ignited fierce debate from 2016 until the present. His administration’s goal was to suppress immigration and wall off the U.S.-Mexico border. A travel ban was put in place that impacted people from 13 countries. In March of 2020, Trump invoked Title 42, a public health policy that was used to expel refugees and block asylum. The individuals who are typically at the forefront of this discussion are migrants from Mexico or Latin America, but there is another impacted group that is continually overlooked: Black immigrants. There are currently4 million black immigrants in the United States, excluding the 1 million that are undocumented. They make up 7% of the entire immigrant population. “In a country like America, whose empire is built on criminalizing foreigners, Black immigrants have an additional stressor around that, because Black people in this country are inherently criminalized. So navigating this country is uniquely painful” says Sarah Ibrahim, an East Africa immigrant living in the U.S. After spending some time actively observing and researching, I’ve come to the understanding that the black immigrant experience in the United States is an intersection of racism and xenophobia. This discriminatory link ultimately disadvantages this vulnerable segment of the population through unjust policing, detainment and asylum policies. The Biden administration’s 2020 campaign targeted the African diaspora, in which several promises were made. President Biden pledged to reunite families, reverse travel bans, and restore America as a place of refuge. While President Biden took 94 executive actions on immigration within the first 100 days of his presidency, he continues to uphold Title 42. As mentioned before, Title 42 is a policy that has been manipulated to dismiss refugees, and it particularly singles out people from Haiti, Central America and Africa. The most notable perpetrators of the oppression and violence black immigrants face are the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. criminal justice system. According to the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, 76% of black immigrants are deported because of police contact. A study showed that from 2012 to 2017, ICE mostly detained people from predominantly black countries. In 2019, the longest recorded ICE detentions were those of black immigrants. They are also six times more likely to be put into solitary confinement. Black Americans are five times more likely to be stopped by police than whites. Black immigrants are three times more likely to be detained and deported due to alleged criminal offenses. This reality makes it difficult for immigrants to obtain green cards and visas, making permanent resident status less probable. ICE has been reported for substandard living conditions, physical abuse, and disregard of public health guidelines established by the CDC. Recently, Haitians, have immigrated at higher rates for a number of reasons. Most notably, President Jovenel MoÏse was assassinated by mercenaries on the 7th of July, sparking political instability and unrest. On August 14th, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck southwest Haiti killing over 2000. Gang violence has increased over the past year impacting 1.5 million people. In September of this year, Haitians fled in mass numbers and journeyed towards Del Rio, Texas. The journey was not an easy one, requiring travel by foot. A makeshift camp was made holding nearly 15,000 people and in late September, the camp was forcefully cleared by authorities. Thousands of Haitian immigrants are being attacked at the border and forcefully deported. A year prior to this, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, 44% of the families being held in detention camps were Haitian. Anti-blackness and xenophobia are embedded into American culture. People are socialized to simultaneously fear, pity, and hate Africans. These socialized notions and beliefs are present in politicians and policymakers who have the power to determine whose lives matter most. Organizations such as UndocuBlack and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration have been advocating for black immigrant rights and providing educational resources. Despite your ethnicity or race, as a citizen of the United States, it is your duty to speak up and take action. Learn about immigration as it pertains to your area, volunteer with local immigration services, educate your friends, family, and peers, and support black immigrants.