The Times spoke to several asylum seekers who shared reported instances of abuse, neglect and coercion, while also requesting anonymity out of fear.
Trump’s history and past comments about Black communities and countries make it evident they don’t rank high on his list, especially in terms of providing civility. Critics of his deportation policy feel that prior to the election, ICE ramped up deportations among Black asylum seekers, as an estimated 16,000 immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa are being held in detention centers across the U.S.
Haiti, Ethiopia, Cameroon and other African nations seem to make up a majority of those seeking refuge from corruption, abuse, rape and forms of political persecution.
According to statistics from Mexico’s immigration department, more than 20,000 Haitians and Africans have journeyed through South America, the majority on foot, to seek protection at the U.S.-Mexico border during Trump’s presidency.
Several who were seeking refuge told the Times they faced violence at home as well as in deportation centers primarily located in the southern states of Mississippi and Louisiana. They shared horrifying accounts, some even claiming they were tortured and almost left for dead with ICE officers taking them into rooms without cameras where they kneeled on their necks, dragged them across the floor and injured ligaments in an attempt to forcefully capture their fingerprints against their will for deportation signatures.
Women said they have been raped or faced miscarriage due to the abuse while they shielded innocent children in refuge with them.
Several who were forced on planes and deported are now untraceable due to arrest or much worse, the Times reported.
“At that point, it’s like the end of the world,” said one man who was deported back to Cameroon. “It’s a death plane. Even if there was a means to make that plane crash that day, we would’ve done it.”
Human rights and civil rights advocates like the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a claim against the Trump administration in October, calling the treatment of Cameroonian detainees “torture.
Four Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin, both of Maryland, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Chris Coons of Delaware wrote a letter to Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, urging him to halt ICE deportations of Cameroonian-asylum seekers.
“The abuse we are witnessing, especially right now against black immigrants, isn’t new, but it is escalating,” Christina Fialho, executive director of an advocacy group, Freedom for Immigrants (FFI) told The Guardian. “In late September, early October of this year, we began to receive calls on our hotline from Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants detained in Ice prisons across the country. And they were being subjected to threats of deportation, often accompanied by physical abuse.”
Some have dodged the “death flights,” but remain enthralled in a legal immigration battle that may still result in deportation.
The incoming Biden-Harris administration has set forth reform in terms of immigration, claiming they will shutter for-profit immigration detention centers, under the dark history of children dying who have been forcefully separated from their parents, reports of forced hysterectomies on migrant women, and the new threat of COVID-19 spreading throughout without little means of protection or prevention. Biden has also promised to reverse many of Trump’s racist policies to amend the whole immigration system.
Change, however, is not linear and many wonder how a Biden-Harris will grapple with the immigration system, weighted under more than 400 executive actions on immigration signed by Trump, over 1.2 million cases in court backlog and asylum denial rates reaching around 70 percent in October.