Building #UndocuBlackPower One Conversation at a Timecsudhbulletin November 28, 2018 0 COMMENTS
By Bria Overs
The immigrant experience in the United States is not a monolithic one. Much of the political focus for the U.S. has been on immigration reform with a lot of attention on immigrants from Mexico and other countries south of the border; and those from the countries that President Donald Trump has banned.
To add to the discussion on the matter, “Immigration is a Black Issue Too” opened the ears of some to the realities black immigrants in the U.S. face. The event, held on Nov. 15, was used to “raise awareness about black immigration” and to discuss “what black solidarity looks like,” said Tianna Townsend, liberal studies major, who led the event.
Approximately 42 million “foreign-born” people live in the United States and about 8.7 percent of them are black immigrants and mostly from African and Carribean nations, according to a 2014 report from the American Community Survey. That same report found that about 178,000 black immigrants live in California.
That number is rising every year.
The event was sponsored by the Toro Dreamers Success Center, the Black Student Union and The Rose Black Resource Center as part of the 3rd Annual National Educators Coming Out Week (NECOW) which took place Nov. 13-16. The week featured a healing circle, CommUNITY mixer, “Dear Immigrant Student” event and ended with a NECOW Photo Campaign.
NECOW is specific to CSUDH, however other universities participate in “National Educators Coming Out” Day on Nov. 12. NECOD is a project by the United We Dream Network’s Dream Educational Empowerment Program, which works to makes changes in education to support students.
In collaboration with the campus resources, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a national organization that works to bring about policy and advocacy for immigration justice, was also a supporter of the event.
Zach Mohamed, Los Angeles organizer for BAJI, presented facts about black immigrants in the United States and California in an interactive presentation titled “The State of Black Immigrants in California.”
The presentation provided statistics on where black immigrants are from, where many of them live, unemployment rates, etc.
According to the presentation, most black immigrants live in major cities in California with Los Angeles, San Diego, and cities in the bay area being the most populated.
“Even when folks during the great migration in the early and mid- 1900s, and during the civil rights [movement], we saw that people were moving to major cities,” Mohamed said. “And the pattern of black migration is a similar pattern for black immigrant populations too.”
The presentation also notes that 84 percent of black immigrants in California have some sort of documentation. Mohamed points out that some think if they have documentation that they won’t be deported, however, he finds that it’s the opposite.
“A lot of times green card holders are the ones who are being deported at higher rates,” Mohamed said. “And these are folks who are living here, who may be in your classrooms, who may be in your community as well.”
The presentation also notes that black immigrants are more likely to be detained with one in five immigrants facing deportation based on criminal grounds is black.
Other issues black immigrants face involve lack of language access and cultural competence; minimal legal services; and attacks on family sponsored and diversity visas as well as Temporary Protection Status and Deferred Enforced Departure.
A panel discussion followed the presentation. The panelist included Black Student Union President and Africana studies major Makonnen Tendaji; Associated Students, Inc. Vice President of Finance and mathematics major Chinaemerem Isika; Mimi, health science major; and Mohamed.
Mimi found that her challenges are social with people not understanding the limitations she has because of her status.
“It’s very difficult in that sense of having to tell someone ‘I can’t do this because of this,’” Mimi said. “And that’s been really tough.”
However, Mimi has been able to rely on her father for support on issues she finds challenging.
Tendaji finds that many of his challenges are in trying to talk about black issues that are important to him with his family. Tendaji is Pacific Islander and black, and both sides of his family find it difficult to understand each other’s challenges.
“The way I face those challenges is by educating myself,” Tendaji said. “The biggest threat to our struggle is miseducation and the illusions of comfort and safety. So, what it comes down to is us as people understanding that these are real problems.”
In dealing with the current political climate, each of them has their own way. Isika brought up how back in January, President Donald Trump made a comment in reference to Haiti and other African nations during a meeting at the White House in which he called them “shithole countries.”
Isika tries not to let negatives things bother him.
“I just don’t let things that I don’t have to worry about get to me,” Isika said. “For instance, how statements are made about how African countries being like ‘shithole [countries]’ or stuff like that, all those kinds of statements are against Africans and people who are in Africa or people who are here. But for me, I don’t worry about that. If I want to achieve anything I go silently…”
Before the panel was over, the floor was open to the audience in which one person asked what staff and faculty can do to support students who are non-citizens or international students. Mimi had some suggestions.
“Be intentional on the programming and also language-wise,” Mimi said. “I’ve noticed how professors talk in certain courses and it doesn’t make it feel inviting. Sometimes there’s a lot of offers about study abroad and McNairs [Scholars], and those are things I want to do but because of my status, it really prevents from doing anything.”
Mimi also recommends that staff and faculty attend training on how to help non-citizen students. As well as being a person who’s an advocate and active in creating safe spaces for them.