UPDATED: 11:37 a.m. EST, Nov. 12, 2019 —
The decision by President Donald Trump‘s administration to end a program protecting young undocumented immigrants in the U.S. from being deported was being reviewed by the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Oral arguments were being made in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, a case that challenges Trump’s move to rescind former President Barack Obama‘s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) law based on strict criteria that was designed to shield immigrants brought to this country illegally as children by allowing them to apply for legal asylum.
Activists were rallying in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday in anticipation of the nine justices hearing the pivotal case that has largely revolved around the popular immigration narrative that Latinos were the only ones at risk of being forced from the country they have spent the lion share of their lives in. However, what seems to have been increasingly lost in the mix was the fact that a good number of Black immigrants were at risk of facing deportation if DACA is terminated.
Those demonstrations followed an early morning tweet from the president that was criticized for lying about the nature of DACA, which has strict eligibility requirements that exclude applicants with a criminal background.
It was unclear what Trump meant by that “deal.” But what was clear was that the lives of hundreds of thousands of undocumented Black immigrants in America were at stake.
Of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, just about 600,000 of them are Black, according to the most recent statistics by the Migration Policy Institute. That’s a close second to the nearly 800,000 undocumented Latino immigrants in the U.S.
A federal judge ruled last year against the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA.
U.S. District Judge John D. Bates called the administration’s termination of DACA “virtually unexplained, hence “unlawful.” Under his decision, the government was given 90 days to justify ending the program. His ruling also required Homeland Security to enroll new applicants.
The Trump administration started taking aim at the undocumented population just days after the president was inaugurated, with much of the media reports focused on federal agents subsequently rounding up Latinos to deport them. But it is important to note that Black immigrants were being “detained and deported at five times the rate of their presence in the undocumented immigrant community,” data from the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) has shown.
“We, as undocumented people living in this country, feel jailed,” Shariece Wright, who is Black and arrived from the Bahamas in 1985 when she was just our years old, told NBCBLK. “We live in bubbles, like individual cells. However, we are expected to live and do everything as the rest of society. But how?”
Ainslya Charlton, a Black woman who was approved for DACA protections, shared her perspective on the process with The Atlantic in 2016.
“Many people do not realize that the immigration system is just as subject to anti-blackness as other government [systems] that are associated with enforcing structural racism,” Charlton said. “The deportation rate for undocumented black immigrants is because we are both black and undocumented simultaneously.”
One of Trump’s signature campaign promises was to tighten and ramp up enforcement of immigration laws, but arguably the hallmark of his candidacy was the repeated vows to undo a number of Obama’s signature achievements. By trying to end DACA, an Obama initiative created in 2012, Trump could effectively kill two birds with one stone.
Obama has been quick to defend those at risk of being forced from the only country most of them have ever known.
“To target these young people is wrong – because they have done nothing wrong,” Obama wrote in an iconic Facebook post in 2017. “Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us.”
Trump’s answer for DACA can be found in a bill called the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, which is based on a points system and been described as “inherently racist.” Introduced in 2017, the bill would give American immigration priority to those with “predictors of immigrant success and economic contribution” such as educational achievement, how well they speak English and overall employability.
BAJI’s deputy director at the time didn’t mince words when offering up his assessment of RAISE and the effect it would have on the Black undocumented immigrants in particular.
“We’ve seen the attacks on undocumented communities and so it’s almost a logical next step for this administration to begin targeting the few paths that Black immigrants have to get to the U.S. and obtain documents,” Carl Lipscombe told Rewire. “This is absolutely about excluding Black and brown immigrants from the country.”