The Trump administration must act to address concerns about the mistreatment of Black immigrants.
On Oct. 1, a Cameroonian asylum seeker named Nebane Abienwi died in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Abienwi arrived at the San Ysidro Port of Entry on Sept. 5, requesting asylum. On Sept. 19, he was sent to the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego. He experienced a hypertensive event in ICE custody and was transported to the Sharp Chula Medical Center on Sept. 26. After undergoing treatment for a brain hemorrhage, he was taken off life support against his family’s wishes and died.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are 4.2 million Black immigrants in the United States.
Black immigrants are from many parts of the world, but half are from the Caribbean alone, according to a Pew Research Center report on Black immigrants.
“Jamaica is the largest source country with about 682,000 Black immigrants born there, accounting for 18% of the national total. Haiti follows with 586,000 Black immigrants, making up 15% of the U.S. Black immigrant population.
However, much of the recent growth in the Black immigrant population has been fueled by African immigration. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of Black African immigrants living in the U.S. rose 137%, from 574,000 to 1.4 million. Africans now make up 36% of the total foreign-born Black population, up from 24% in 2000 and just 7% in 1980.
Among Black immigrants from Africa, virtually all are from sub-Saharan African countries, with only 1% of all Black immigrants from North Africa. Nigeria, with 226,000 immigrants, and Ethiopia, with 191,000, are the two largest birth countries for Black African immigrants to the U.S.
Black immigrants make positive contributions to the United States, but they are at a higher risk for arrest, detention and abuse because of racial profiling and racial bias.
The Congressional Black Caucus is speaking out against the mistreatment of Black immigrants at the southern U.S. border.
“Thousands of African and Caribbean immigrants who immigrate to the United States of America are treated as if they are invisible,” said Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chair of the caucus. “Many arrived in South America and then walked north, all to be dehumanized and mistreated at our southern border. We are heading to the border to hear what they have been through. They are an important piece of this story.”
Another wave of about 70 African asylum seekers arrived last weekend in Portland, Maine’s biggest city.
The numbers are smaller than in the summer, when more than 400 Africans arrived from the southern border. The city set up an emergency shelter at the Portland Expo, and organizations frantically worked to find homes for the newcomers.
“We don’t see this, as of now, as the crisis we dealt with in the summer,” City Manager Jon Jennings told the Portland Press Herald.
The city is preparing contingency plans. In the event shelters reach capacity, the YMCA will let as many as 75 people sleep there.
Mufalo Chitam, executive director for the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, helped coordinate volunteer efforts last summer and helped screen host families who provided temporary housing when migrants had to leave Portland.
“We’re ready to support the families as they come,” Chitam said. “The weather will be a challenge. It won’t be summer. That’s the piece that will be different and a little concerning — going into winter.”
The arrival of families fleeing Angola, Congo and other countries has shown that it’s not just Central Americans making the journey to the southern U.S. border.