statements

 

BAJI To Biden Administration: Expand Haitian TPS, Cease Deportation Of Haitians

A massive 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti on Saturday, August 14, 2021 leaving more than 1400 dead, thousands more injured and these numbers are expected to rise. Tropical Depression Grace, according to the National Hurricane Center in the U.S., may cause flash flooding and mudslides when it lands this week as the island continues to reel from the July assassination of its president, Jovenel Moise.

Compassion for the Haitian people, in the form of practical humanitarian aid, is what is needed right now. Donate to reputable organizations like Haiti Action Committee’s Haitian Emergency Relief Fund and Man Dodo Humanitarian Foundation as they understand the lay of the land and can get help to the people as quickly as possible. 

It is not enough for the Biden administration to wax poetic about being a “close and enduring friend to the people of Haiti”. The Biden administration must extend and expand Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for Haitians as a reprieve to those here in the US which will also have a positive ripple effect on Haiti through remittances. Additionally, the US government must allow Haitian asylum seekers across the U.S. border and offer them asylum without detention. Finally, all deportations and expulsions of Haitian nationals must cease immediately.

 

Until We’re Free: Open Letter to President Biden

President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

 

Vice President Kamala D. Harris
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

 

The Honorable Anthony Blinken
Secretary, Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20037

 

The Honorable Alejandro Mayorkas
Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
301 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20024

 

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken:

In the wake of the federal recognition of Juneteenth as a holiday, deep racial injustices continue to plague the nation and we await action.  Black immigrants continue to face heightened detention and deportation under current policies. Federal immigration legislation introduced and under consideration perpetuates anti-Blackness in our immigration system by prioritizing the policing and criminalization of Black people. Consistent with this administration’s stated commitment to racial equity, it must act by establishing immigration policies that focus on repairing the damage inflicted on Black people, including Black migrants, by eliminating those policies that criminalize, exclude, and separate Black migrants from communities and by instituting policies that are anti-racist and humane.

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) is a racial justice and migrant rights organization which engages in education, advocacy, and cross-cultural alliance-building in order to strengthen a national movement to end racism, criminalization, and economic disenfranchisement in Black immigrant, refugee and African American communities.

We are writing today as we launch the Until We’re Free coalition to urge you to pursue restorative immigration policies that are rooted in human rights and human dignity. A foundational element of immigration policy is its grounding in the experience of Black immigrants.  The Until We’re Free coalition will chart a new course for racial and immigrant justice in this country centered on the critical needs and demands of Black people regardless of their citizenship or their interactions with the criminal legal system.

Specifically, we call for the following actions:

  1. Reforms to the Bond System:
    For many immigrants, payment of immigration bonds is the only means to freedom from the harms of detention and family separation. Unfortunately, like most other aspects of the U.S. immigration system, bond practices and policies present insurmountable challenges for those impacted by detention and their families.  Immigration bond amounts average around $7500 in most years. However, in recent months Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, the largest immigration bond fund in the country, has posted an average of $12,000 per individual for bond and has received referrals for bonds upwards of $50,000 in recent weeks- a steep cost for freedom.  Black people face higher bonds than other detained migrants and most are incarcerated indefinitely in ICE detention. Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), who also operates an immigration bond fund, reports that bond amounts for Black immigrants were 54% higher than those for non-Black immigrants between June 2018 and June 2020.  Moreover, studies have shown that the vast majority of immigrants when released from custody continue to appear in court, undermining the need for bond.

     

    The administration should engage in rulemaking that at a minimum requires immigration judges to adhere to a “presumption of release” without conditions in all cases; work with Congress to repeal 8 U.S. Code §1226, which sets the minimum bond amount at $1500; establish guidelines to cap immigration bond amounts; and direct the DOJ to issue a bond schedule offering clear guidelines for immigration judges where setting bond amounts.

     

  2. Address the Unique Crisis Facing Black Migrants at the Border
    U.S. foreign policies- including the failed wars on terror and drugs, and the prior administration’s trade war- have exacerbated tenuous conditions abroad, spurring Black migration across the globe.  Over the past decade, as the humanitarian crisis at the border between Mexico and the U.S. deepened, we have seen a growing number of Black immigrants approaching the U.S. southern border to seek asylum.  As BAJI, NYU Law School, and IMUMI have shown in our report, There Is A Target On Us: The Impact of Anti-Black Racism on African Migrants at Mexico’s Southern Border, Black migrants seeking asylum experience dangerous, even deadly, anti-Black discrimination,  violence, and harm at the hands of Mexican police and civilians. We call on the administration to immediately grant humanitarian parole to Black, LGBTQ+, and other vulnerable asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

     

    People should never be penalized for the mere act of crossing the border.  And, while there have been several steps taken by the administration to reform the asylum system, anti-Blackness and racism remain embedded and unabated. Indeed, laws that criminalize entry and reentry (Sections 1325 and 1326 of Title 8 of the U.S. Code) were explicitly rooted in xenophobia, racism, and white supremacy.

    We urge the administration to use its authority to stop criminalizing migration by ending the referral and prosecution of cases under these codes.  The administration must go further to turn the page on xenophobia and racism by rescinding the Center for Disease Control Title 42 order as it applies to immigration and an unlawful justification for disproportionate expulsion of Black immigrants, while rescinding its own harmful policies against asylum-seeking families, including its “rocket docket” policy, which will rush asylum cases through court with no legal counsel and subject mostly Black and brown immigrants to mass surveillance.

     

  3. Establish a Meaningful Opportunity to Return Home for Those Unjustly Deported
    The very history of our immigration system is rooted in a legacy of racism and oppression that has long privileged white immigrants.  In fact, our immigration laws have always been used to exclude and target immigrants of color. Our immigration system has detained and deported hundreds of thousands of individuals, separating them from families and communities.  For decades, over-policing and racist police practices have put Black and brown immigrants on a pipeline from arrest to deportation that permanently tear parents from their children as a second, and lifelong, penalty. Under the Trump administration, over 400 anti-immigrant executive actions were issued in an effort to deport as many of the 10 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. as possible while shutting out refugees and asylum seekers.  Many were deported unjustly- despite having strong legal grounds for remaining in the U.S. or being targeted by the federal government. For example, in October 2020, under the Trump administration, over 100 Cameroonian and Congolese asylum seekers were deported. Again, in November 2020, despite Congressional intervention and mass lobbying from national organizations, another 37 Cameroonians, six Angolans and three Congolese asylum-seekers were deported and flown – shackled – back to their  respective countries despite awareness that these countries are in the middle of violent conflicts. The Biden administration has promised to turn the page on previous administrations’ racist immigration agenda. It should, therefore, ensure that people who were unjustly deported have a meaningful chance to return to their homes and families in the U.S.

     

  4. Address the Criminal Legal to Immigration Pipeline
    Violence and racism pervade the policing and court systems. Black immigrants are disproportionately stopped, searched, arrested, and killed by the police. Like all Black people in America, Black immigrants are also over-represented from arrest rates to sentencing. 76 % of Black Immigrants are deported because of contact with the police. For fifteen years, advocates have been raising the alarm on the criminal bars enshrined in the 1996 immigration laws that center the role of the carceral state that effortlessly separates, excludes, and expels Black people from communities.

     

    The administration’s current interim enforcement priorities perpetuate this pipeline and the systemic racism that pervades both systems.  DHS should abandon categorical bars to receiving favorable prosecutorial discretion and the identification of groups of immigrants as “priorities” for enforcement.  Barring people from relief based on criminal convictions imports the racism and biases endemic to the criminal legal system and perpetuates them further. The categories that ICE identified in its interim February 18 memo are especially harmful.  These categories routinely rely on racial profiling and systematically harm Black and Brown youth especially.

    As ICE itself recognizes in its May 27 guidance to OPLA attorneys, the agency’s mission is not to maximize the number of deportations whatever the cost; rather, “the government wins when justice is done.” Justice in the context of prosecutorial discretion means reckoning with the dehumanizing effects of our criminal and immigration legal systems, not continuing them.

    DHS and ICE must flip the script on enforcement, prioritizing people for protection, not deportation, or the fundamental problem will remain. Indeed, and unacceptably, detention numbers are rising, as is the anguish of families left behind by the current approach to enforcement. Detention and deportation are extreme consequences, which traumatize entire communities. Each of the people ICE deports has a family, a community, a history, and a life that cannot be reduced to their contact with the criminal legal system.  As DHS considers the next iteration of its guidance, the agency must leave behind the “enforcement priorities” framework and instead designate categories of people for protection from enforcement. DHS must treat people as people, not targets.

     

  5. Include Immigrants in Criminal Justice Reforms
    Immigration is a racial justice issue.  Immigrants, especially Black and brown immigrants,   feel the double oppression that comes from over-policing by traditional law enforcement, and also immigration enforcement. The stakes are high: an immigrant of color who is racially profiled and criminalized by the criminal legal system is often fed into the detention and deportation machinery.  Indeed, Black immigrants make up only 5.4% of the undocumented population in the United States, but make up 20.3% of immigrants facing removal on the basis of a criminal conviction. Criminal justice reform efforts in the past perpetuated this pipeline and in failing to consider immigration consequences, continued incarceration, deportation, and the explosion of ICE detention.

     

    In advancing reforms to the criminal legal system, the administration must consider immigration consequences with a particular focus on racial equity.  We urge President Biden to use his clemency and pardon powers by pardoning immigrants with deportable convictions and to ensure that those who receive clemency also receive an exercise of discretion, as well as allow people residing outside of the U.S. to seek pardons.  Criminal justice and drug reforms efforts must not exclude immigrants; this includes ensuring that any pre- or post-plea dispositions do not count as “convictions” in immigration court.  If the administration wants to truly address the legacy of racism and white supremacy in this country, it must commit to addressing racial justice, immigrant justice, and criminal justice together as part of the same fight.

     

  6. Fix the Child Citizenship Act of 2000
    Congress failed to make the Child Citizenship Act (CCA) of 2000 retroactive, leaving Black immigrants subjected to a now obsolete 1940 immigration law.  The Guyer Rule, rooted in racism, prevented the children of unmarried parents from gaining citizenship through their fathers.  CCA rescinds the racial discriminatory Guyer Rule; however, many Black immigrants who have resided in the U.S. since before 2001 and would otherwise be recognized as U.S. citizens are not simply because of the accident of their date of entry.

    The administration should refrain from enforcement against anyone who would be a U.S. citizen under the CCA of 2000 and should call on Congress to immediately fix the law to make it retroactive.

    1. Boldy Support Legalization Legislation for the Undocumented that Does Not Leave Those Involved in the Criminal Legal System Behind

    This President has in front of him the opportunity to sign legislation that will provide permanent lawful protections for millions of undocumented immigrants who have lived in uncertainty for too long. The moral imperative that brought us to this moment will be compromised if an enacted legalization program leaves behind the very same communities enduring the destabilizing impacts of racist police systems and mass incarceration. Recent legislative proposals for legalization programs, including the Dream and Promise Act and the Farmworker Modernization Act, include expansive bars to legalization, layering newly defined exclusions on top of the already painfully expansive existing grounds of inadmissibility. The Dream and Promise Act also includes a process described as “secondary review,” which would give the government the authority to deny individuals on the basis of a juvenile delinquency adjudication or allegations of gang affiliation never previously considered by a criminal court.

    Imposing bars based on criminal convictions or alleged conduct imports the inherent bias and structural racism of the criminal legal system into a new legalization program. As discussed above, Black and brown communities are far more frequently targeted for arrest and prosecution; perverse plea incentives often drive innocent defendants to plead guilty; and harsh sentencing structures disparately harm communities of color. When criminal convictions serve as bars to legalization, these pathologies inherent in the criminal legal system are grafted onto the new legalization system and are directly at odds with widely supported criminal justice reforms.

    The administration should call on congressional leadership to ensure that a bold and inclusive legalization program is passed through reconciliation, without exclusions based on past criminal convictions or alleged conduct. At the very least, the President should insist that any new legalization program not layer additional exclusions on top of the grounds of inadmissibility already included in the Immigration and Nationality Act, and that a waiver is available for any ground of exclusion on humanitarian or family unity grounds. 

 

**

The Until We’re Free coalition was formed because it is time to rethink the archaic criminal provisions frequently included in federal immigration legislation and instead focus on modern community-led, transformative solutions that improve our lives and communities. It is time that our immigration laws are free from anti-Blackness and that immigration is centered as a racial justice issue.  We urge you to take action to support your stated commitment to addressing the legacies of racism and white supremacy in this country by supporting these transformative changes and using your power to chart a new course for racial and immigrant justice in this country.

 

Sincerely,

 

Nana Gyamfi

Executive Director,  BAJI

 

Signed in solidarity by the following immigrant and civil rights organizations and leaders :

Advancement Project | National Office, Alianza Americas, Black Immigrant Collective (BIC), Brooklyn Community Bail Fund (BCBF), Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Immigrant Justice Corps (IJC),  National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIP-NIG), Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), and VERA Institute, Heidi Altman, Jojo Annobil, Judith Browne Diallis, Iman Boukadoum, Oscar Chacon, Carl Hamad-Lipscombe, Mustafa Jumale, Laura Martin, Kica Matos, Brenda Pinero, Sirine Shebaya, Samah Sisay, and Vince Warren.

 

 

Somali TPS Extension and Redesignation Welcome but Many Will be Left Behind

On Monday 19th July, 2021, the Department of Homeland Security announced an 18 month extension and redesignation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for qualified migrants from Somalia. The extension will be in effect from September 18, 2021 through March 17, 2023.

The TPS redesignation is welcome news for the large number of Somali nationals who, even though eligible, have been unable to apply for TPS since 2012. Under-documented and undocumented Somalis in the US – many of them having been victims and survivors of ongoing civil war and other humanitarian crises like drought and famine – continue to face detention and deportation to Somalia.  The TPS extension in turn offers temporary reprieve for Somali nationals who, though already on TPS, remained anxious about their immediate future.

However, due in part to criminal bars written into most immigration policies, many undocumented Somalis will remain ineligible for TPS despite this redesignation. We continue to argue that these barriers to protection from detention and deportation are antiBlack measures.

Throughout US cities, Somali nationals continue to face Islamophobia and xenophobia. Specifically, the various iterations of the Countering Violence Extremism (CVE) federal program continue to criminalize Somali immigrants, stripping many of them of their green cards, and rendering many of them deportable. 

Somalia continues to be a battleground for the US’s “war on terror”. US authorities know that current conditions in the country have left hundreds of thousands of Somalis vulnerable to the consequences of extreme conflict. Somali nationals fleeing to safety should not be punished for seeking asylum and protection. 

As welcome as these extensions are, we at BAJI continue to call for Congress and the Biden administration to go beyond TPS and offer permanent protections to vulnerable immigrants. We demand permanent protections from expulsion, detention and deportation for ALL undocumented immigrants.

 

The Biden Administration’s Rejection of Cuban and Haitian Asylum Seekers is Anti Black

Wednesday, July 14th 2021- The Black Alliance for Just Immigration is alarmed at the Biden administration’s pronouncement that the US will reject Cuban and Haitian asylum seekers despite both countries’ current heightened humanitarian crises. 

The head of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas said “Any migrant intercepted at sea, regardless of their nationality, will not be permitted to enter the United States.” The U.S. Coast Guard will be monitoring the US coastline to prevent asylum seekers from entering the US.

These remarks and policies are unacceptable particularly for an administration that touts to care for human rights and racial justice. All refugees, migrants and asylum seekers are entitled to the human rights of international protection, the right to seek asylum and the right not to be forced to return to their home countries arbitrarily. 

Nana Gyamfi, BAJI Executive Director: “Mayorkas’ latest comments are continued evidence of President Biden’s anti-Blackness and immoral disregard for the right to asylum. Biden and Mayorkas continue to enshrine historical wet foot/dry foot racist policies, but because these particular Cubans are not white elites their feet are considered wet and unwelcome.”

President Biden’s anti-Blackness – his utter indifference to Black suffering and denial of Black people’s right to exist – is the only explanation for how the Cuban-born Mayorkas, whose family sought asylum from Cuba by air, can fix his mouth to tell Haitians and Cubans not to seek that same refuge that his family benefited from just because they are coming by sea.

 

 

One Year After George’s Floyd’s Murder We Continue The Call For Abolition

Since the killing of George Floyd, Black people across the US are leading uprisings demanding justice for the endless police murders of our loved ones. Around the country, we are organizing in the streets demanding a new vision of public safety that is not centered around policing. 

Violence and racism pervades the policing and court systems. Black immigrants are disproportionately stopped, searched, arrested, and killed by the police. Like all Black people in America, Black immigrants are also over-represented from arrest rates to sentencing. 76 % of Black Immigrants are deported because of contact with the police. We are constantly forced to contend with the truth that we cannot address systematic racism without confronting the police in Black communities. 

There have been some developments–including calling for a federal ban on police chokeholds and rejecting qualified immunity–but these do not go far enough to address the reason why we are in the streets. Many of the recent police reforms suggest that law enforcement needs more resources to do their work. They call for the hiring of more police officers, more police training, and more research into police “best practices.” These reforms are out of touch with the reality that policing is the problem in Black communities, not the solution. 

BAJI will continue to demand that the investment of the millions of dollars proposed for more policing instead go to resources that will improve the quality of everyday life of Black people in this country. We support legislation, such as the Breathe Act, that is aimed at diverting funds from law enforcement and investing in anti-poverty programs that actually makes us safer. 

 

BAJI Georgia voters supression

Illustration: Nse Ufot (The Georgia New Project) and Stacey Abrams (Fair Fight), both speaking to a crowd holding signs. Signs read: We March, Demand Voting Rights Now, Georgia Voter. Rep Park Cannon in handcuffs as she is being arrested by Georgia state troopers.

 

BAJI rejects voter suppression laws in Georgia SB202

Two things happened in Georgia last week.  

Governor Kemp signed a bill restricting voting access. This law places restrictions on voting by mail and gives the Georgia legislation control on running elections. 

In an act emblematic of voter suppression and political oppression of Georgians, state troopers arrested a Black legislator, Rep Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) as she protested the signing of the bill. 

Listen, this is white supremacy in manifestation. Sure, we knew that white supremacy would not go away with the ousting of Donald Trump as president, we are still outraged. 

At the same time, these events are a call for us to expand the reach of our organizing efforts and recruit even more people to fight for a freer Georgia. 

At this moment, the work is clear: we must continue to build our base to fight back and we must advance a bold and progressive vision of the kind of Georgia we want to live in. BAJI is doing just that and we are inviting you to join us. >>>>Follow this link to sign up!

In solidarity,
Lovette Thompson and Keron Blair
BAJI Georgia

P.S
Bring your cousins and em’ with you as well! 

 

 

 

BAJI: The Dream and Promise Act is Anti-Black

Last month, the Democratic-led House of Representatives passed the Dream and Promise Act. The Dream and Promise Act provides permanent protections to certain immigrant youth and young adults (commonly known as ‘Dreamers’) and the 400,000 adults here with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

The criminal bars in the Dream and Promise Act reinforce the racist US carceral system. Black people with one felony, three misdemeanors, or who have been accused of gang involvement will be rejected from the Dream and Promise Act outright. The current surge of immigration bills being introduced, supported, and glorified prioritize the policing and criminalization of Black people as the primary trade-off for the path to citizenship. In short, these bills are anti-Black. We denounce these immigration bills because we seek justice for Black people.

Like all Black people in America, Black immigrants are over-represented from arrest rates to sentencing. 76 % of Black Immigrants are deported because of contact with the police. For fifteen years BAJI has been raising the alarm on the criminal bars still abiding in the 1996 immigration laws that center the role of the carceral state that effortlessly separates, excludes, and expels Black people from communities.

It is hurtful that our allies would push these immigration policies while acknowledging the devastating impact of the racist criminal legal system that targets and kills Black people. 

In the course of President Biden’s political career, he has designed and endorsed policies that have harmed Black people. He has supported, authored, and championed laws that expanded mass incarceration, increased police powers, and exacerbated racial disparities in surveillance and sentencing. We are not surprised but amazed that his policies continue to break apart Black communities. President Biden, who has said that Black people ‘brung him to the dance’, needs to immediately address anti-Blackness in his policies and its devastating impact on Black lives in the United States.

It saddens us that the visionary work of human rights activists for the last few decades has yielded no new vision in the immigrant rights movement.  It is time to rethink the archaic criminal provisions frequently included in federal immigration legislation and instead focus on modern community-led, transformative solutions that improve our lives and communities. We need restorative policies that are rooted in human rights and human dignity. BAJI will continue to chart a new course for racial and immigrant justice in this country centered on the critical needs and demands of Black people regardless of their citizenship or conviction.