In a response to the Boston Globe’s post about the Biden administration’s deportation of hundreds of Haitian migrants, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley tweeted, “The mass deportations of Haitians and Black immigrants is amoral and dangerous. @ICEgov is a rogue agency that is beyond reform. We must rebuild our immigration system to affirm the dignity and humanity of every person in America, regardless of immigration status or skin color.”
The mass deportations of Haitians & Black immigrants is amoral & dangerous.@ICEgov is a rogue agency that is beyond reform.— Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) February 23, 2021
We must rebuild our immigration system to affirm the dignity & humanity of every person in America, regardless of immigration status or skin color. https://t.co/lmBx85IefH
Pressley’s point of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) as an agency beyond reform is corroborated with its continued deportations of hundreds of migrants, enabled by the Biden-Harris administration’s failure to follow through on proposed policy reforms. Specifically, Pressley comments on the rise in deportations of Haitian migrants, due to Trump-era border policies that are still being upheld in the Biden-Harris administration.
This policy, Title 42, immediately turns away any migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border due to COVID-19 precautions with no exceptions, even if migrants fear for their lives. This has especially affected Haitian migrants.
“This immigration deportation system is cruel and inhumane,” said cofounder of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, Guerline Jozef, via a statement. “It’s callous but not surprising that ICE kicked off Black History Month today by deporting Black immigrants, inflicting pain and trauma on Black families seeking safety.”
In one of his first executive orders after taking office, Biden issued a 100-day moratorium on all deportations. This was quickly blocked and put on a temporary hold by a federal judge in Texas. Despite the blockage of this Deportation Moratorium, the ruling did not require Immigration and Customs Enforcement to schedule deportations. Even though this clear work around was present, ICE continues to carry out hundreds of deportations each day, especially affecting Black migrants.
The Biden-Harris administration has yet to respond in a substantiative way, despite their running platform prioritizing immigration reform and racial equity.
Black migrants are disproportionately failed by the immigration system in the United States, as it is riddled with systemic inequities and anti-Black racism. In a statement put out by the UndocuBlack Network, co-director Patrice Lawerence commented on the mass-deportations of Black migrants on the first day of Black History Month, and it’s amplification of anti-black sentiments among ICE officials.
“ICE jumped at the opportunity to deport Black immigrants to the Caribbean, Central America and Sub-Saharan countries almost immediately after the issuance of the unjust, baseless, and legally unsound TRO on the 100-Day Deportation Moratorium,” Lawerence said via statement. “We know that at the top of the list, individuals from Cameroon, Mauritania, Angola, Congo, Haiti and Jamaica are immediately at risk. However, what is unnerving is the deafening silence emanating from the White House. As the rogue agencies under DHS continue to defy the mandate of the new administration, the Biden-Harris Administration remains silent.”
This silence is part of a long-legacy of ignorance to Black migrant struggles. Prior to the Biden-Harris administration, the fight for immigration justice for Black migrants has been one riddled with racism, xenophobia, and anti-Black sentiments. In 2018, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and the NYU Law Immigrant Rights Clinic published the report “State of Black Immigrants” to address the lack of focus on Black migrants in broader discussions about Immigration Justice. The report found that Black immigrants in the U.S., like African-Americans, “experience disparate, often negative, outcomes within various social and economic structures in the U.S., including the country’s mass criminalization and immigration enforcement regimes.”
The over-policing of the Black community disproportionately affects Black migrants, representing over 20 percent of those in deportation proceedings on criminal grounds despite making up only seven percent of the non-citizen population. This overcriminalization of Black migrants also affects their eligibility to apply for programs with a clear pathway to citizenship, such as Temporary Protective Status (TPS). In a statement released by UndocuBlack on the proposed American Dream and Promise Act, Asha Noor calls attention to the strict parameters for eligibility.
“The bill introduced yesterday would make the same criminal exclusions a pillar of stone in a ‘transformative’ immigration system, even after 280 organizations called for their removal…” writes Noor. “This will cruelly deny relief to Black and brown members of our community, shrinking eligibility for status and eventually citizenship through unfavorable yet inconspicuous terms of conditions.”
The silence of the Biden-Harris administration on the mass deportations of Black migrants starkly contrasts the political platform that they ran on. “President Biden will reform our long-broken and chaotic immigration system,” boasts the White House’s website. Yet this promise for reform of a “broken and chaotic system” is clearly not being met. Instead, programs with clear pathways to citizenship, such as TPS, are proposed with clear criminal exclusions while not addressing the structural racism and over-policing of Black migrants that prevent them from accessing adequate migration support.
As the Immigration system in the United States continues to be riddled with systemic inequities despite presidential promises of immigration reform, it seems that to reform our current immigration system is not enough.
Hundreds of migrants continue to be deported each day. Immigration advocacy group, United We Dream, has estimated that over 26,258 deportations have occurred under the Biden-Harris administration, including Title 42 expulsions. With Black migrants being over-represented in criminal deportations proceedings due to over-criminalization, they are at disproportionate risk of being detained in ICE detention centers and barred from clear pathways to citizenship. The effects of structural racism in our current immigration system to Black migrants despite a “progressive” presidency illuminates that reform is simply not enough.
Changing a system that has structural inequities built into it will continue to perpetuate harm onto migrant communities, especially Black migrants. Until there is an end to all deportations, discriminate enforcement and detention centers, the Biden-Harris administration cannot meet their promise of a “safe, stronger, and more prosperous” country.