There are mere days now left in Black History Month 2022 and the Biden administration has been given a challenge that it should respond to urgently, if it was sincere in its promise to Black voters who helped them win in 2020.
Last week, several top U.S. lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Schumer, sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling on the administration to review the “disparate treatment of Black migrants” throughout the immigration system.
You have read many such calls in this column over the years, including under this administration. But this letter, signed by more than100 lawmakers in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, highlighted the issue of the inhumane treatment of Black and mostly Haitian immigrants at the Southern border last September, when they were chased, ridden down, grabbed and even lassoed by white border agents on horseback.
The lawmakers told Biden that they “would like to work with your administration to chart a new way forward rooted in equal treatment and protection of human rights.”
The question is, will the administration respond positively or continue more of its Trump-like policies?
The letter pointed to the long history of inhumane treatment of Black migrants, which is particularly evident in the historic mistreatment of Haitians. It cited data that showed that Black immigrants comprise just 5.4% of the unauthorized population in the United States, and 7.2% of total non-citizen population, but made-up 10.6% of all immigrants in deportation proceedings between 2003 and 2015.
The letter also cited a recent report from researchers at the University of California that found that those detained from Africa and the Caribbean—predominantly Black regions—made up just 4% of those in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody from 2012 to 2017, but 24% of all solitary confinement detentions.
That report also found that Black migrants are also likely to remain in detention longer than other migrants and pay significantly higher bonds for release.
But there was more. The lawmakers pointed to the horrifying reports that emerged in 2020, that migrants from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo were not given a fair opportunity to seek asylum and were forcibly coerced into signing voluntary departure orders after protesting inhumane detention conditions.
They also cited the recent removals and expulsions of migrants to Haiti by the Biden administration.
“To that end,” the lawmakers are urging the administration to end the use of Trump’s Title 42 authority which they noted: “… is depriving legitimate asylum seekers the opportunity to pursue their claims, contrary to our obligations under international and domestic law.”
Interestingly, as we celebrate Black History Month, the lawmakers wisely reminded Biden, and hopefully his immigrant roots veep and immigration czar, that America must “… also be accountable for our political decisions and the decades of intervention by the United States, including a military occupation from 1915 to 1934, that has contributed to the political destabilization, impoverishment, and ecological vulnerability of Haiti.”
In addition to stopping removals to regions such as Haiti that face serious insecurity, the congressional and senate members also urged Biden to take steps to address the systemic challenges Black migrants face to receiving equal treatment. They urged him to have his Department of Homeland Security, in concert with the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), conduct a holistic review of the disparate treatment of Black migrants throughout the U.S.’ immigration system, make available to the public the results of this review, and take steps to remedy disparities at each step of the immigration enforcement process.
“It is essential that we recommit ourselves to reversing anti-Black policies, including by adopting a human-rights centered approach to supporting immigrants and people seeking asylum in the United States,” the signatories to the letter concluded.
The question now is, will Biden listen or will his need to, like Barack Obama, show he is strong on immigration and the border, override commonsense and the promises he made to Black voters to secure the White House?
We will have to wait and see. So far, the White House has not made any public response to this letter.
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow.