Tag Archives: jamaica

The need to address Black Immigrants

TW: racist criminalization, nativism

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has decided to include on the short list of issues it will push for this year the overhauling of the existing deportation-focused immigration justice system, focusing particularly on the plight of Caribbean immigrants, who are often Black. There’s much that can and has been said much better than I could at the description of this decision and the motivations behind it over at Color Lines, but I think I’d just like to add one quick extra applause to the CBC for this one.

(Nicolas Stewart, 11, at his naturalization ceremony in Queens, in 2009. He was born in Jamaica. From here.)

In a very real sense, immigrants who are Black must struggle with the complex interaction of two distinct forms of racist criminalization. As immigrants, their very legal status can easily be declared “illegal” and deemed unfit to exist. As Black individuals, there’s a remarkable resilience to any claim that they’re criminal even when all indications point to other conclusions. It’s hard not to see these two distinct forms of racist belief in a criminal other fusing together and ruining lives with descriptions like:

David Pierre, a 47-year-old in immigration detention, says he doesn’t have that much time. Pierre was born in Antigua, moved with his mother to the US Virgin Islands when he was 2, and then came north to Jersey to attend trade school in the ’80s. He’s married and has six kids, two who are serving in the armed services. But for the last three years, Pierre been locked in immigration detention centers. 

In the ’90s Pierre was convicted of theft and a set of drug offenses including sale or possession in a school zone. He served two years in prison and was deported to Antigua. But Pierre came back—his family was here and he didn’t have anything in his birthplace. Although Pierre says he got his life together and court records confirm his lawful course, federal immigration authorities flagged him in 2009. As a result, Pierre has been in immigration detention since 2010.

‘I’m here for something like 20 years,’ says Pierre, who is fighting his case. ‘I paid my debt to society and I turned my life around and now I have this issue. I have a family here, my wife is here, everything I own is here.’

The CBC is equally focusing on fighting poverty and guaranteeing voting rights this year, both issues that are distressingly necessary to address at the present, but it’s refreshing that they included alongside those two the needs of Black immigrants as well.

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