As federal raids become a daily occurrence, Black immigrants are living in fear. They undergo more scrutiny than other migrant groups across the nation — the result: one in five face deportation, according to a recent Pew Trust article.
“We’re worried,” said Patrice Lawrence, policy coordinator for the UndocuBlack Network. “The (Trump administration is) putting people’s hearts and minds in limbo. They’ve got a deportation machine geared up and ready to go.”
One thing Black immigrants find out while growing up in America is that they are one thing: Black. The article notes that they face the same challenges as native-born African-Americans, from housing discrimination to unequal treatment in the criminal justice system.
In cities like New York, Black immigrant communities are heavily policed, which makes them vulnerable to immigration action, said Michelle Parris, an attorney with the Immigrant Defense Project.
“Local policing and practices drive many Black immigrants into the criminal justice system for minor offenses,” Parris said. “That may trigger deportation proceedings and make it harder to fight deportation.”
Such is the case of Abraham Paulos. Born in Sudan to Eritrean parents fleeing war, Paulos came to America in 1981, when he was 9 months old. As a teen he grew up in Chicago, where life was rough. He ended up homeless, jumped a turnstile and stole some library books.
The Sept. 27 Pew Trust article highlighted Paulos’ story. Now 36, he is at risk of being deported to Eritrea — a place he has never visited — for a crime he committed nearly 20 years ago.
The thing is, if he were deported, the Eritrean government does not accept nationals who’ve been deported back into the country, said the article. This would leave Paulos without a country.
“This is how you know we are living in an alternative universe,” Paulos said. “The fact that I don’t have a country works out for me.”
There is an influx of immigrants facing deportation because of past crimes, said Mauricio Norona, a staff attorney from the law center at the African Services Committee, a social services organization for immigrants.
According to the Pew Trust article, in the past, you’d have to have committed a serious crime to be eligible for deportation. But now any contact with the police, even if it’s just an arrest without a conviction, can get immigrants funneled into the deportation pipeline.
Technically, people who entered the country without legal documentation after January 2014 are considered a high priority for criminal deportation, even if they have committed no other offense.
New York’s Brooklyn Flatbush neighborhood is the home of the nation’s largest Black immigrant population, which consists of mostly Caribbean — Haitian and Jamaican — Guyanese and Trinidadian people. And people are seeing and feeling the change around them and are worried, even with New York being a so-called sanctuary city.
“At the local bodegas, parents are afraid to use their government-issued WIC cards to feed their children, for fear of drawing attention to themselves,” the Pew article reported.
“Parents withdraw mounds of cash from the bank, rather than pay for anything electronically. Landlords looking to take advantage of the city’s gentrification craze tell tenants that they’ll report them to immigration officials if they don’t move.”
The Pew report points out while “the face of the immigrant tends to be Latino, specifically, Mexican,” there is as a “rapidly growing group of Black immigrants whose numbers have nearly quadrupled since 1980, to 3.8 million.”