About BAJI Atlanta
Our organizing work in Atlanta is the space where we bring Black Americans and Black immigrants together to solve issues of mutual concern. The city has long been known as a center of power, politics and culture, a cradle of the Civil Rights Movement and often called a “black mecca.”
Atlanta has the third highest population of African immigrants in the country, with Afro-Caribbean communities growing rapidly. Facing parallel challenges as Black Americans, Black immigrants represent a critical element in developing powerful and organized communities in metro-Atlanta. People of color in Atlanta, regardless of immigration status, experience mass incarceration and criminalization on a grand scale. After hearing of several reports of maltreatment of incarcerated people at Atlanta City Detention Center (ACDC), BAJI ATL in coalition with local Georgia groups protested conditions at the ACDC and called on the mayor to shut the prison down. The #ClosetheJailATL campaign stems out of the persistent targeting of poor people, the increasing incidents of indefinite detention and the use of solitary confinement at ACDC. The BAJI ATL’s work sheds light on the importance of collective work to harness the power of the community to solve problems.
Atlanta Jail Closing
The Alliance for the Campaign to #ClosetheJailATL has declared a major victory after the Atlanta City Council voted on May 20, 2019, to approve a resolution that begins the closure of the Atlanta City Detention Center(ACDC) and the repurposing of the facility into a Center for Equity, Freedom, and Wellness. The 11 to 1 council vote came just two weeks after the 43 member Alliance held a Day of Redemption at City Hall to urge support from council members for the resolution. Preceding this victory, Atlanta Mayor Bottoms signed an executive order that ended the city’s contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) due to the inhumane conditions for detained immigrants in Georgia. The approved closure of ACDC resolution establishes a Task Force to be appointed within 30 days. Over the next 12 months, the Task Force will convene to develop recommendations and develop a plan to close and repurpose the facility for the benefit of the larger community, particularly those who have been harmed by the jail and the policing policies which have filled it for decades.
SB 15, a bill that would have endangered students of color, was vetoed by Governor Kemp a few weeks ago. Project South, Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Women Watch Afrika and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, delivered signed petition to Governor Kemp’s office fighting back against this racist bill! While SB 15 was titled “Keeping Georgia Schools Safe Act,” its implementation would have created a hostile environment and become a real threat to Georgia’s students, especially those from Black, immigrant, and Middle Eastern communities. This bill would have mandated all public schools to have “School Safety Coordinators” who must share with law enforcement whenever they have “reasonable suspicion” of “violent criminal activity” from a student. No definition or guidelines for these standards exists. This would have allowed for broad interpretation of the law, which would only worsen the school to prison pipeline.
Immigration Enforcement Review Board
In May, Governor Brian Kemp signed legislation that dissolved the Immigration Enforcement Review Board. The panel was empowered to probe complaints from the public about violations of immigration-related state laws. With members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker, it can also issue subpoenas, place witnesses under oath and slap fines. The Immigration Enforcement Review Board had long been plagued by due process violations and lack of oversight. Its mere existence scared cities and towns with limited resources from taking steps to welcome immigrants. The action by Kemp, one of the nation’s most conservative governors, was the result of years of grassroots organizing in local communities.
- Opened an office in Atlanta this year
- BAJI was apart of the Communities Over Cages: Close the Jails in Atlanta coalition to advocate for the closure the city detention center. Our team spoke at a public hearing with the Mayor’s Office on Immigrant Affairs to tell the City of Atlanta once and for all to end the ICE contract and close the ACDC.
- BAJI facilitated an immigration workshop during the Congolese Community of Atlanta’s general assembly where we spoke on the public charge rule and its implication on community members.
- BAJI hosted REFRAME, a communications training at the Clarkston Community Center to equip our membership with the tools to share their stories and transform our world by effectively using media opportunities. We had OC members and Spelman students in attendance – who were able to earn college credit for participation. Afterwards, some students got engaged in speaking on WRFG, a local radio station, about issues impacting black immigrant students and African American communities.
- Organized actions and press conference against for 287g bill
Year’s Campaigns and Programs
- BAJI partners with the Emerson Unitarian Universalist church and the Congolese community to conduct teach-ins on immigration and adult education. Engaging with the community allows us to gain a better understanding of the issues the immigrant community faces.
Upcoming Year Goals
- Establish a southern “Black and Brown Network” – connecting communities in the fight for racial justice and immigrant rights
- BAJI plans to continue our partnership with the Communities Over Cages coalition and develop a transformative design team to re-purpose the center to a wellness and restorative justice center that will benefit the community.
- BAJI aims to have a more active participation in the Black immigrant community by attending more events, being on more panels, and getting into the spaces share the laws and policies that will impact the community.
- BAJI will stay engaged with the Congolese community as well as organize International Women’s Day in the Clarkston community.
- Census work; targeting Black immigrant communities
- The Atlanta organizing committee has been a challenging body to organize because of inconsistencies in meeting, communicating and capacity.
- One of our programs in Atlanta was to have a visitation program to detention centers. We wanted to do this to connect with immigrants and obtain more information about the issues they face in the centers. Because of unforeseen circumstances and staff changes on our team, this program has not got off the ground.
- There is minimal reporting or statistics available about the issues affecting immigrant communities in Atlanta. Atlanta has an extremely diverse community, and the needs of and resources for Black immigrants in particular are ignored.
- At this time, the organizing committee in Atlanta has been restructured. The committee has faced challenges in previous’ years and as a result, members are now restructuring how they move the local work forward . The organizer has successfully built relationships with members and outreached to bring in new members. It has been an adjustment period recruiting and engaging new members, but consistent monthly meetings, communication through apps with members and creatively addressing local and national issues has brought together a stronger alignment with our Organizing Committee.
- Our team supported a Black immigrant mother by fundraising to extend her B1/B2 visa allowing her to remain onto her family. Tania, a Jamaican woman based in Georgia has a daughter on dialysis in Atlanta. Without a work permit, it was becoming increasingly difficult for her to afford groceries for her two children, particularly her daughter who has special dietary needs, and proper transportation to travel back and forth from the hospital. The funds raised covered the applications for both of her children along with legal fees. The extension allowed her to stay with her daughter through her recovery and tend to the needs of her son.