A new report from the Pew Research Center says the African immigrant population of legal and undocumented people has more than doubled in the last 15 years up to just under 5 percent of the total immigrant population. But immigrants from African countries also have a disproportionate rate of deportation compared to other immigrant groups. Advocates says the fear in the community is palpable. Taylor Wizner has more.
Lawrence Bureh is from Sierra Leone. He works as a security guard in Manhattan and he is the sole financial supporter of his extended family back home. He came to the U.S. on a visitors visa in 2014. Then his country was overtaken by Ebola and he was granted temporary protective status, or TPS, to stay in the U.S. He says while many perceive that the public health crisis in Sierra Leone is over, the country is still devastated from the disease.
The mindset is end but the aftermath is still disastrous.
The Obama Administration cancelled the TPS program for countries affected by Ebola. But it extended the visas a few times. Now Bureh’s visa is set to expire at the end of May. He’s nervous but remains optimistic.
We are pleading we are hoping. We continue to appeal. The time is oh… is short. But we continue to appeal whatever.
Bureh is just one of the many African immigrants whose stay in the U.S. might get shortened. That’s according to Amaha Kassa–an immigration attorney and the director of the non-profit African Communities Together. Kassa says Trump’s administration has targeted Black immigrants with his executive orders. Right now undocumented Africans face a higher risk of deportation.
This rhetoric around criminal aliens has been very vague, very broad and very sweeping. So it includes potentially people who don’t have any conviction who might be wrongly picked up and ultimately cleared of any crime but still face this very severe penalty.
Since the President’s recent executive orders on immigration were released, Kassa says Africans have been calling the hotline for advice. Callers are scared they’ll be deported.
People who’ve been here for many years. Some of them even with greencards because we’ve seen that even green card holders have gotten swept up in some of the immigration enforcement and visa ban. And also folks that are undocumented and at the moment don’t have a lot of relief available to them. A lot of fear.
Benjamin Ndugga-Kabuye (En-do-ga Ka-boo-yuh) is a researcher at Black Alliance for Just Immigration. He says it’s not just Africans that are at risk. Racial bias plays a role. So Black immigrants are more likely to have encounters with the police. That means more of them could be deported, especially when there’s a focus on small crimes.
Broken windows policing basically means that low level offences are going to be targeted with arrests and fines. And so in New York City the number one arrest in New York City’s for jumping that turnstile. About 30,000 people get arrested every year for that.
(En-do-ga Ka-boo-yuh) says when you are arrested in New York City police officers share that information with Department Homeland Security and ICE. And that can make it easier for immigrants or refugees to be deported.
This administration has intensified. This is an expansion increase. So things are much worse but it’s also built on the past.
Bureh’s wife and their children are living in Mauritania, which neighbors Sierra Leone. He says if he is deported to Sierra Leone, he might not be able to cross the border because neighboring countries are still afraid of Ebola. Meanwhile he’s applying to study business in the U.S. hoping the country might let him stay a bit longer.
Taylor Wizner, Columbia Radio News