At least two undocumented immigrants recently detained by U.S. immigration agents have killed themselves before their deportations were complete, underscoring the latest worrisome aspect of the growing humanitarian crisis caused by America’s immigration policies. And while the popular narrative has been that only Latinos have been punished for trying to enter the U.S. illegally, an increasing number of Black and brown migrants have also been on the receiving end of the country’s harsh immigration policies.
In the most recent instance of this troubling trend, an Eritrean man seeking asylum in the U.S. out of “fear of returning to his country” had his request denied before he killed himself in transit back to his native country, the Associated Press reported. Zeresenay Ermias Testfatsion hanged himself in a detention area at Cairo International Airport while waiting for a connecting flight to, Eritrea which has been fighting a civil war with neighboring country Ethiopia for nearly two decades.
America’s latest immigration policy that separates migrant families at the border by isolating their children has also had a deadly effect, according to reports.
A Honduran national who was told his family would be separated once they were detained at the border for illegally trying to cross into the U.S. killed himself last month, NBC News reported this weekend. Marco Antonio Muñoz hanged himself in a jail cell in Texas on May 13 while awaiting his deportation, law enforcement officials said. He managed to kill himself despite surveillance cameras being trained on the cell he was being held in.
With the reports of dozens of Somalians detained in a Florida jail, advocates for Black immigrants cited an “inhumane” immigration legacy for America and decried the divide-and-conquer tactic being employed at the border by the federal government.
“It is tempting to label this policy ‘un-American,’ but the truth is, family separation is a devastating tradition in the U.S. From the nearly 250 years of slavery in U.S. to the harsh conditions in Japanese internment camps of the 1940s, U.S. policy has torn families apart, causing deep intergenerational trauma and betraying any sense of humanity,” Opal Tometi, Executive Director of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, said in a statement released late last month. “While we expect nothing more from a man who insulted Black and Brown countries in the Caribbean and Africa, we should expect that our society would rise above this continued hateful rhetoric and dangerous immigration policy and call for our leaders to defy our the darkest days of our history and present by enacting laws that provide a just and humane approach to immigration.”
Of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in America, just about 600,000 of them were Black, according to the most recent statistics by the Migration Policy Institute. That was a close second to the nearly 800,000 undocumented Latino immigrants in the U.S.