Black Immigrants and 45’s Executive Orders
It’s been awhile, but welcome to Part Three of the Black Immigration Primer! It seems like ages since 45 (the current President of the U.S.) issued a volley of executive orders affecting various areas of our lives. Here, I want to talk about the two versions of the Travel Ban (a.k.a. the #MuslimBan) and how they target Black immigrants, Muslim immigrants, and Black Muslim immigrants. The travel bans live at the intersection of anti-Blackness and Islamophobia.
First, some terms and their definitions. Anti-Blackness (also known as anti-Black racism) is what it sounds like: systems, policies, beliefs, and behaviors that are “resistant or antagonistic to Black people or their values or objectives.” We often see anti-Blackness in other communities of color. Some argue that assimilation into American culture is predicated on embracing anti-Blackness (in order to succeed in America, one must separate oneself from Black people and violently oppose Black people’s success). Islamophobia is a “dislike or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.” It’s important that anti-Blackness and Islamophobia are not merely individual beliefs; they encompass power of the systemic kind. Anti-Blackness and Islamophobia result in harmful, deadly policies and wars.
It’s safe to say that 45 and his administration are a number of things (misogynistic, racist, unethical, evil, and so forth) but they are also distinctly anti-Black and Islamophobic. 45 and his minions’ embrace of anti-Blackness and Islamophobia produced two Travel Bans that harmed hundreds of people. Let’s discuss them in turn.
Travel Ban #1
On January 27, 2017, 45 signed Executive Order 13769, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.”
● Lowered the number of refugees to be admitted into the U.S. in 2017 from 110,000 to 50,000
● Suspended the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days
● Suspended the entry of Syrian refugees indefinitely
● Suspended entry of immigrants or visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, including those with valid visas
○ Allowed exceptions on a case-by-case basis
Out of the seven countries listed in Travel Ban #1, three are located on the African continent: Libya, Somalia, and Sudan. That’s nearly half of the banned nations. Therefore, Black immigrants, and Black Muslim immigrants, were directly affected during the utter chaos that ensued after Travel Ban #1 was signed (Remember the airport fiascos? People stranded mid-air, held in quasi-detention at airports without food for hours at a time? Yeah, that. Over 700 travelers were detained and up to 60,000 visas were “provisionally revoked” in that time.). Travel Ban #1 also prevented immigrants with status (including legal permanent residents) from re-entering the U.S., if they were from one of the seven banned countries. Black Muslim immigrants felt the brute force of Travel Ban #1 immediately.
Luckily, some of the victims of Travel Ban #1 and their lawyers got to court ASAP, and a nationwide temporary restraining order was issued from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on February 3, 2017. That order halted Travel Ban #1 in its tracks. But, almost one month later, we were introduced to...
Travel Ban #2
On March 6, 2017, 45 signed Executive Order 13780, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.
Travel Ban #2:
● Placed limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries, and by all refugees who do not possess either a visa or valid travel documents
○ Retained the 6 majority-Muslim countries from Travel Ban #1, but took Iraq off the list (Iraq agreed to strengthen the way it vets applicants for U.S. visas)
● Blocked Syrian refugees from entering the U.S. for 120 days, instead of indefinitely
● Allowed those with valid visas to enter the U.S.
● Maintained exceptions to the ban on a case-by-case basis
● Revoked and replaced Travel Ban #1
Yeah, slightly better, but still generally heinous. Again, lawyers were quick to block 45 and Travel Ban #2 (a.k.a. #MuslimBanReloaded), 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the government from enforcing several key provisions of Travel Ban #2. 45 and his minions continue to litigate Travel Ban #2 in the courts.
As you can see, Travel Ban #2 still includes three African nations (Libya, Somalia, and Sudan), thus Black immigrants and Black Muslim immigrants do not have any reprieve from the harm Travel Ban #2 can do, if it survives numerous court battles.
Across the country, people rallied (myself included) to protest the first #MuslimBan. This is a net good, undoubtedly. However, we must insist that Black Muslims are included within our discussions about Islamophobia and anti-Muslim rhetoric. The experiences of Black Muslims, caught in the crosshairs of anti-Blackness and Islamophobia, must be elevated as we strategize how to resist 45’s evil executive actions.
According to Tia Oso of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Travel Bans #1 and #2 have had serious, anti-Black, Islamophobic effects on Black immigrant communities:
“The biggest issue with the executive order as far as Black immigrants are concerned, Oso noted, is that fully one-third of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are African. “So, to have a ban on refugee resettlement here — a ban on Somalia, Libya and Sudan — is 100 percent to reduce the number of immigrants from these countries, who are Black Africans, from coming to the U.S.” she said. “We have families who are being split up, family members being stuck in limbo in the refugee camps. These people have already been approved, already vetted and assigned to be resettled in the U.S.” Oso said these policies are designed to reduce to the number of Black and brown people [in America].
In 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) removed 1,293 African immigrants from the U.S. Out of that total, 365 African immigrants had a criminal history (which can lead to grounds for removal), but 928 had no criminal history to speak of. In 2015, DHS removed 459 Haitian immigrants, 852 Jamaican immigrants, and 580 Nigerian immigrants. Our immigration policies, and 45’s attempts to shape them, have direct detrimental effects on Black immigrants.
At this point, you may be wondering what you can possibly do in this time of crisis. My first suggestion is to get educated. How? Keep track and follow the work of organizations like BAJI (http://blackalliance.org), the UndocuBlack Network (http://undocublack.org) on social media. BAJI keeps a very up-to-date blog with resources and current analyses of this administration’s antics.
If you care about Black immigrants, try the following (taken from BAJI’s 10 Powerful Ways to Support Black Immigrants):
1. Executive Order Memo This memo by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration describes the executive orders while providing a short review of their potential impact on Black immigrants.
2. Multi-Lingual ‘Know Your Rights’ Cards Executive orders are coming out fast and with little announcement. For clarity, share these multi-lingual cards for essential know your rights information.
3. More Know Your Rights’Info If you are a noncitizen, what are your rights? Find out on the National Immigration Law Center site.
4. A Primer on Immigration If you need a review of the immigration system and the rights of non-citizens look no further. Families for Freedom has a well rounded site committed to arming immigrants with a variety of information and resources.
5. Noncitizen Protesters Guide Becoming ungovernable by mobilizing protests and rallies that stop the normal flow of business is going to be key to stopping our current course. Check out this guide to review the rights of non-citizen protestors.
7. The (Anti) Black Roots of America’s Islamophobia As Islamophobia continues to spread in our immigration policies it is even more important to reflect on its roots. Check out this quick historical survey here.
8. Black Immigrant Network Detention Toolkit Black immigrants have the highest levels of criminal detention and deportation in the country. Uniting our communities across the cages and bars that divide us is central to the movement for Black lives. This toolkit goes over how family and community members can locate immigrants in detention, organize visits, and set up a visitation initiative.
9. Deportation 101 The current deportation machine has been in place for decades. Check out this review by Families for Freedom to learn how it is structured and how we can fight back.
10. 5 Calls 5 minutes making 5 calls. Ready to demand more? Check out this site that helps you commit to calling your elected officials about the current anti-immigrant climate.
This ends the Black Immigration Primer. I hope y’all have taken away some new information that will inform where we go from here. Black immigrants are part of this nation’s fabric. We must protect and advocate for Black immigrants in our liberation struggle. We must address the intersection of anti-Blackness and Islamophobia, so that we protect and advocate for Black Muslim immigrants. We need to survive. We need to get free together.
[Opal Tometi, BAJI Executive Director, #BLM Co-Founder, & Black Immigrant <3]
● For more about 45’s legal ability to limit immigration, check out the Congressional Research Service’s explanation:
● As police gain a greater role in immigration enforcement, the way they obtain evidence used against Black immigrants becomes far more important. Should the exclusionary rule (disallowing unlawfully-obtained evidence from the record) apply to immigration court proceedings?