Blacks – African American, Immigrant and Refugee Forge Common Agenda

Eric Ward • Apr 20, 2009

In the span of just three days the misconception that U.S. born African Americans reject humane immigration reform entered the first stages of its demise.

In Baltimore, MD, this weekend over fifty blacks from throughout the United States joined together to build the Black Immigration Network (BIN), which will be made up of individuals of African descent residing in the United States and myriad community-oriented organizations.

Convened by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Which Way Forward: African Americans, Immigration and Race, and the Third World Coalition of the American Friends Service Committee, the BIN is the first national network that will centrally concern itself with immigration and racial equity issues. From housing to migration, participants began mapping out the unique footing of all individuals of African descent in relation to these issues. “Whether it comes to getting a job or applying for refugee status,” said K.L. Shannon of the local King County NAACP, “blacks tend to fall to the bottom of the well when it comes to national policy decisions.”

In preparation for the upcoming debate on immigration reform, the Black Immigration Network also began exploring the emerging policy issues stemming from Temporary Protective Status (TPS), a designation that primarily encompasses the Haitian, Liberian, Somali, and Sudanese communities. AME minister The Rev. Cheryl Green was quoted as stating that “Our refugee brothers and sisters are experiencing the same fear and harassment from law enforcement that we live with each day in the black community.”

Thusly, BIN also began approaching and developing an amalgamation of proposals regarding TPS,  worker justice issues, and immigration enforcement, all of which, it can be said, highlight the needs and desires of the black community at-large.

The timely importance of such proposals is solidified when one realizes that the white nationalist hate group Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) has perpetually put-forth dubiously calculated statistics alongside so much muddy data all in a broad attempt to access and to sway the black community’s standing on immigration issues. For example, FAIR maintains that the presence of immigrants in America negatively impacts the economic opportunities and therefore the existence of all African American families.

Like most of FAIR’s assertions, these bigoted myths are ripe for debunking.

The aforementioned lie was exposed as such by Steven Pitts of the UC-Berkeley Labor Center, who in his presentation to BIN showed via a study of metropolitan areas that there is no correlation whatsoever between black employment trends and immigrant populations.

Kayse Jama, a Somali organizer and Executive Director of the Center for Intercultural Organizing, echoed Pitts’s findings when he stated the following:

“Racial discrimination in employment, anti-union organizing and poor education are the major barriers to U.S. born blacks having [sic] access to jobs. Black immigrants and refugees have a special responsibility to demand an end to structural racism that seeks to disenfranchise U.S.-born blacks.”

During this convergence in Baltimore, the anti-immigrant movement suffered yet another in a series of devastating blows.

In chorus across ethnic, religious, and national lines, the black community of both immigrants and non-immigrants is beginning to support migration policies that lift up both our nation and the black community. Rev. Cheryl Green agrees:

“While there may be cultural and historical differences when it comes to the black community, one thing is sure—we’re all catching hell, doesn’t matter if you’re immigrant or not.”

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