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Black, indigenous, and other people of color have long called attention to the systemic racism and oppression that is prevalent in our society, and anti-blackness is at the center of it all. This is the case in the current the U.S. immigration system.

The United States must prioritize the experiences of Black immigrants and asylum seekers  to build a more humane, just, and equitable immigration system.

Immigrants from predominately Black countries, such as African and Caribbean nations, face tougher treatment under the current immigration system. While just 7% of non-citizens in the U.S. are Black, they make up a full 20% of those facing deportation on criminal grounds. In ICE jails and private prisons, guards subject Black immigrants to solitary confinement at higher rates than non-Black immigrants. The longest incarcerations on record are for Black immigrants.

Immigrant detention is a horrible and dehumanizing experience for everyone, but Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection have particularly targeted Black immigrants. Here are just a few recent examples:

Cameroonian Immigrants Tortured in Detention

The U.S. government was recently found to have tortured Cameroonian immigrants in ICE jails, in order to force them to sign deportation forms.

Haitians Detained in Higher Numbers

Currently 44% of the families in detention are Haitian. One of the reasons that Black immigrants stay in ICE jails longer is because of the massive disparity in their bonds. For instance, immigrants from Haiti pay much higher bonds than other immigrants in detention.

As recently as October and September, we have seen mass deportation of Haitians under Title 42 (a measure to close our borders to non-essential travel under the Public Health Services Law). Most of these deportations occurred without the due process for the migrants to apply for asylum or fight deportation on other grounds.

African and Caribbean Asylumn Seeks Experienced Years of Deportation at High Rates

Among the 10 nationalities with the most asylum decisions from 2012-2017, Haitians also had the second-highest denial rate at 87%. In the years before that period, Jamaicans had the highest asylum denial rate. Somalians have also faced high deportation numbers in that same time period.

Every human being deserves dignity and the right to seek safety and better opportunities. In order to address the injustices that Black immigrants and refugees face every day, FCNL and coalition partners are calling on Congress to halt detention and deportations, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, limit funds for ICE and CBP, and demand accountability. They must conduct thorough investigations into the abuses committed by immigration officials, and advocate for permanent relief for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders from African and Caribbean countries including Cameroon, Mauritania, Haiti, and other.

Black immigrants’ stories and voices have been extensively marginalized. The United States must prioritize the experiences of Black immigrants and asylum seekers in policies and legislation to build a more humane, just, and equitable immigration system.

Note: ICE only tracks deportations by country of origin, not by race or ethnicity. This means researchers often only include people from majority Black countries in their definition of “Black immigrants”. However, Black immigrants are also from Central and South American countries such as Honduras, Guatemala and Brazil.

Maria Isabel (Marisa) Leon-Gomez

Marisa León-Gómez Sonet

Legislative Associate, Immigration & Refugee Program

Marisa León-Gómez Sonet served as FCNL’s Legislative Associate for the immigration and refugee program for 2020-2021.