Anti-Blackness is inherent in our immigration system, Biden's executive order makes it worse

The president's anti-immigrant executive order further imperils Black migrants seeking asylum

Published June 15, 2024 5:46AM (EDT)

U.S. President Joe Biden (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. President Joe Biden (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

President Biden’s recent executive order severely limiting access to asylum for people seeking safety at the U.S.-Mexico border further imperils those fleeing dangerous conditions and betrays Biden’s campaign promises to restore asylum. This anti-immigrant executive action resembles failed immigration policies that only worsen a dire situation that already leaves migrants seeking asylum in continually perilous conditions – especially Black migrants who are the most unlikely to attain asylum while also being the most likely to need asylum in the first place.

The horrific immigration system under Donald Trump and the effects it is still having during the Biden administration were wreaking havoc in the asylum process thus far. Biden’s newest inhumane policies gutting asylum will only fuel the extreme prejudice already predominant in our immigration system. 

Black immigrants experience anti-Blackness at every step in the migration and asylum process as they flee violence and oppressive conditions in search of safety. In the Uncovering Truth Report published two years ago, the data shows that Black migrants experience abuse and disturbing patterns of racist and violent incidents at a disproportionately higher rate than non-Black migrants while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention. 

The report found that despite Black migrants only accounting for six percent of the total ICE detention population today, 28 percent of all abuse-related reports came from Black migrants. The report also reveals through a Freedom of Information Act request that despite Black migrants only making up four percent of the total ICE detention population during 2012-2017, they made up 24 percent of all people in solitary confinement. And in one of these instances of solitary confinement at Stewart Detention Center, a 27-year-old Black Panamanian migrant, Jeancarlo Alfonso Jimenez Joseph, was found unresponsive after spending 19 days in solitary confinement.

Additionally, Freedom for Immigrants – an organization that provides non-governmental, independent oversight of the U.S. immigration detention system – reported that over 53 percent of their most high-intensity and life-threatening cases that required their intervention during that six year period were for Black migrants. 

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Black migrants experience racism within detainment, but also via the way in which they are detained. Last summer, over 100 Mauritanians and other African asylum-seekers were detained by ICE at Adelanto detention center in California at a time when other non-Black asylum-seekers were released to their communities. The prejudice experienced by these Black asylum-seekers was furthered by the Biden administration's failure to provide language rights to those who spoke African indigenous languages.

Expedited hearings also disproportionately impact Black migrants who require time to get information from home countries required for their asylum cases. Black asylum-seekers often have complex claims for protection, and the time allotted under expedited schemes result in arbitrary forced-return to the countries they fled. The lack of time allotted for these complex asylum cases will only continue to harm Black migrants as they are designed to allow the U.S. to evade the responsibility to provide asylum protections. 

Recently, we saw a situation in which a queer Senegalese asylum-seeker who entered the U.S. was detained by ICE in California and was not released with the others who were processed with him. Instead this asylum-seeker was held without bond in spite of efforts to have him released and get the support he needed to pursue his asylum claim. He was then expelled back to Senegal using these unfair and unjust expedited hearings aimed to prevent migrants from the opportunity to receive asylum. 

It is important to note that the immigration policy Biden is putting forth this year echoes a 2018 effort by President Trump to block migration that failed miserably and put us in the situation we are in today.

Instead of moving away from draconian policies that only mimic the United States' criminal enforcement system that funnels Black migrants into the immigration detention and deportation system, Biden is choosing a craven embrace of failed Republican immigration policies that disproportionately endanger Black migrants.

We do not need a more restrictive, more inhumane immigration system. We need an immigration system that respects the right to mobility and the rights and dignity of people seeking refuge in this country. Biden needs to use every action in his power to address the serious flaws in the immigration system in a way that is more humane and actually solves the crisis by providing pathways to citizenship, strengthening our asylum system, creating an inclusive immigration system that fights anti-Blackness, and ending the detention of migrants. 

By Kica Matos

Kica Matos is president of the National Immigration Law Center

MORE FROM Kica Matos

By Nana Gyamfi

Nana Gyamfi is the Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration

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Anti-blackness Asylum Border Commentary Diaspora Executive Orders Immigration Joe Biden Migrants