President Joe Biden spent months on the campaign trail advocating for a "fair" and "just" immigration system that would provide equitable treatment for all those involved. In order to push this effort forward, he has dedicated more than $100 billion to developing pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. While his efforts are noble, advocates for Black undocumented immigrants are unsure if the President will follow through on his campaign promise.
For decades, undocumented Black immigrants have been discriminated against financially and criminalized within the United States of America. Much like immigrants of other backgrounds, undocumented Black immigrants are expected to pay bonds to leave detention centers and end family separations. However, analysis from the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services found that bonds paid by undocumented Black immigrants from 2018 to 2020 were routinely higher than those paid by undocumented immigrants of other races. Adding on, a report from the Black Alliance found that 76% of Black immigrants are deported because of contact with the police.
“Black immigrants exist, so immigration is a Black issue,” Yoliswa Cele of UndocuBlack explained to NBC News.
“Black immigrants are constantly profiled. Things that could be a ticket then turn into misdemeanors. Black immigrants also have the highest visa denial rates. Black immigrants are more likely, when they are detained, to be put in solitary confinement. We bear the brunt of all the consequences that happen, all the xenophobia in this country.”
Contact with police is a topic that has come up recently when discussing President Joe Biden's immigration efforts. Within the last year, the President has extended protected status for undocumented immigrants from Haiti and Somalia, but immigration lawyer Samah Sisay has pointed out that protected status comes with a caveat. Protected status does not extend to those with felonies or three or more misdemeanors, including any offense involving marijuana. Given that many Americans have spent the last year pointing out the ways in which the criminal justice system disproportionately targets Black communities, many are frustrated with this political maneuver.
“What a lot of people are upset about, with this pathway to citizenship that the Biden administration is claiming they’re going to dedicate money to, we know that at the end of the day only certain people will qualify for it,” Sisay told NBC News.
“It’s going to play into this continuing narrative that’s existed in the U.S. for a long time about who is deserving as an immigrant. Oftentimes Black immigrants are not in that picture, and folks who have any contact with the criminal system are oftentimes left out.”