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CBC delegation visits border, condemns treatment of Black immigrants

By Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad -Final Call Newspaper- | Last updated: Dec 4, 2019 - 11:05:08 AM

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A delegation of Congressional Black Caucus members led by Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) recently met at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Ysidro, Calif. where they saw for themselves the gruesome treatment of many Black immigrants by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Migrants from Haiti and Africa wait to see if their number will be called to cross the border apply for asylum in the United States, at the El Chaparral border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, Sept. 13. Dozens of immigrants lined up at a major Tijuana border crossing waiting to learn how the Trump administration’s radical new restrictions on who qualifies for asylum would affect the tens of thousands of migrants stuck on the Mexican border seeking refuge.

“It was a very frustrating experience,” said Rep. Bass during a conference call with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), an organization that represents over 200 Black newspapers. “Thousands of African and Caribbean immigrants who immigrate to the United States of America are treated as if they are invisible,” she said. The delegation met at the border Nov. 22 and reported their findings the same day to NNPA.

The delegation crossed the border into Tijuana, Mexico, and met a group of Black immigrants from Cameroon, Sierra Leone and other African countries with tear-jerking journeys to tell.

“The first child separated from her mother was from a family from the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Rep. Bass continued. “The child was sent to Illinois while the mother, who spoke French, was detained at the border.”

A Cameroonian immigrant, Nebane Abienwi died while in custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. After being treated for a brain hemorrhage, he was taken off of life support against his family’s wishes, said Rep. Bass.

Department of Homeland Security records revealed Mr. Abienwi applied for admission into the country September 5 and was taken into custody by ICE September 19. Rep. Bass said his death still remains a mystery.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Texas) and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) were among those in the delegation. Attorney Nana Gyamfi, executive director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, also accompanied the group.

Rep. Lee and her colleagues were critical of the Trump administration and its policies that have contributed to the mistreatment of immigrants. “We need to shed some light on what is taking place here as it relates to Black immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa,” she said. “I hope the Black community understands that this is another example of Trump’s policies to make America White again. We see that every step of the way in this process,” she said.

President Trump and his administration has already been under fire by critics for poor treatment and discriminatory policies against immigrants. Another controversy arose after plans were revealed by the administration to expand its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Effective since January 2019, the policy forced migrants to wait in Tijuana, Mexico, while their asylum requests were processed. Its expansion will force back migrants claiming asylum in and around Tucson, Ariz.; El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

“A lot of them will get very sick, a lot are traumatized and already unhealthy,” continued Rep. Lee. “They will need to be able to survive—they’re barely surviving now.”

She called for Black professionals, including psychiatrists, social workers and others for assistance on the matter. “Black America has to rise up. This has got to stop,” she said.

According to a 2018 Pew Research study, 4.2 million immigrants from African, Latin American and Caribbean countries are living and making positive contributions to the United States with higher chances of obtaining a college degree or higher. However, they are at higher risk for detention, arrest and abuse.

Stacy M. Brown from NNPA contributed to this article.