Filed Under:  National

Black immigrants face tougher challenges under Trump

27th February 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Kari Dequine Harden
Contributing Writer

Aiming to shed more light on issues facing Black immigrants in the United States, The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) held a telephone town hall last week to address the question: “What do the Trump Administration’s policies mean for Black immigrant and African-American communities?”

According to Pew Research Center, in 2013, a record 3.8 million Black immigrants lived in the U.S., more than four times the number in 1980. More than half of Black immigrants came from the Caribbean, largely from Jamaica and Haiti. Although recently struck down by the courts, Trump’s “travel ban” includes three African countries: Libya, Sudan, and Somalia.

Signed January 25, Trump’s “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements” Executive Order (EO) includes the construction of Trump’s infamous wall, estimated at a cost of $25 billion.

But Carl Lipscombe, BAJI program manager, highlighted other elements, which “further criminalize immigration.”

“While public attention has focused on the “border wall” order, we expect the other provisions to have a larger, more immediate impact on Black immigrants,” according to BAJI. “In particular, the provisions permitting detention and deportation of non-citizens that are merely accused of a criminal offense are particularly alarming.”

The EO directs policy to “detain individuals apprehended on suspicion of violating Federal or State law, including Federal immigration law, pending further proceedings regarding those violations.” Thus, people can be deported before they have been tried or convicted of a crime.

Lipscombe also pointed out that the policy affects green card holders “accused of a deportable offense.”

It also gives state and local law enforcement the enhanced ability to perform the functions of immigration officers.

Another EO signed on January 25, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” directs the Department of Justice to prioritize the removal of immigrants who have been charged with any criminal offense, even if the charge has not been resolved. “In its broadest interpretation, all non-citizens that have committed any element of a criminal offense, regardless of whether they actually face criminal charges, are an enforcement priority,” according to BAJI’s analysis.

The prioritization criterion includes “extremely vague” language, Lipscombe said, such as those who “have committed acts that constitute a criminal offense.” There’s also the subjective and “incredibly broad” directive to deport anyone who, “in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security,” thus leaving that determination up to the immigration officer.

Several of the speakers on the BAJI telephone town hall who work with immigrants described an atmosphere of hysteria and fear.

They described ICE raids, and pregnant women who were advised not to show up for appointments because of the increased enforcement.

People are now more likely to be detained when they go for a routine check in with officials, said Abraham Paulos, executive director of Families for Freedom.

But Paulos also emphasized that ICE raids are nothing new – nor are deportations. All of that has been happening under the Obama Administration, he noted. Paulos also stressed that the immigration laws themselves have not changed since 1996.

While it is positive to shed more light and bring more resources to immigration policy, “We’ve been going through this the whole time,” Paulos said, of raids and deportations.

He also stressed the importance of getting credible and helpful information to people who are feeling intensified fear and paranoia.

In a country in which the private corporations profit significantly from mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex, detention centers are also highly profitable. The U.S. boasts the largest immigration detention system in the world. The headline of a February article in Mother Jones declared: “The Private Prison Industry Is Licking Its Chops Over Trump’s Deportation Plans.”

A memo issued in late January from White House immigration experts to top Homeland Security officials called for raising the number of immigrants Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) incarcerates daily, nationwide, to 80,000 people, up from an average closer to 35,000 per day.

“The system also operates under a congressionally mandated quota that requires ICE to maintain 34,000 detention beds at any given time,” according to Detention Watch Network. “This policy, known as the detention bed quota, is unprecedented; no other law enforcement agency operates on a quota system.”

The memo also calls for the hiring of 15,000 new border and ICE agents.

“As of November, a whopping 65 percent of ICE detainees were held in facilities run by private prison companies, which typically earn a fee per detainee per night and whose business model depends upon minimizing costs to return profits to their shareholders. Since Trump’s election, private prison stocks have soared, and two new, for-profit detention centers are opening in Georgia and Texas,” writes Madison Pauly in the Mother Jones story.

According to data compiled by the group CIVIC, two Louisiana locations with immigrant detainees, Pine Prairie Correctional Center and Jena/LaSalle Detention Facility were adding hundreds more beds to accommodate ICE detainees as of late 2016.

Asked about conditions in the detention facilities, Lipscombe said they were often housed within prisons, and essentially mirrored prison conditions.

When several thousand Haitian immigrants arrived last year fleeing natural disasters, political persecution and poverty, the influx prompted the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to seek contracts for new detention facilities. On Nov. 23, 2016, DHS reported more than 4,400 Haitians being held in immigrant detention facilities.

During the BAJI town hall, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees Executive Director Ninaj Raoul spoke specifically to challenges facing the Haitian community, which has seen a surge in recent years of migration to the U.S.

She described an “on and off again” set of policies under the Obama Administration in terms of deportations, which were paused after Hurricane Matthew and then restarted.

Because of the ever-changing policies and mixed messages, Raoul said thousands of Haitians are caught in limbo in Mexico.

But recently, Raoul described a significant increase in deportations back to Haiti – from about 50 a month now up to more than 1,000 per month, with two flights per week carrying 135 people.

She also cited difficulty for immigrants in finding legal representation. There are numerous “Know your rights,” presentations, Raoul said, but not enough access for immigrants to lawyers.

Opal Tometi, executive director of BAJI, ended the town hall by talking about the importance of “Sharing in the global fight against systems that operate on racism.” She noted, “Black immigrants are far more likely to face detention and deportation as a result of criminal contact,” and described the current atmosphere as a “moment critical that we rise up and fight for each other.”

This article originally published in the February 27, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

Readers Comments (0)

You must be logged in to post a comment.