Nana Gyamfi has the 2020 election on the brain, specifically what the future holds for Black immigrant populations in the United States.
“If there’s a Biden presidency, you know, I’m expecting that immigrant rights will change based upon the pressure that we provide on the ground, in the streets. What do we do as a community? What do we do as organizers?” asked the Executive Director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI).
Gyamfi, who serves as an attorney and also co-founded Justice Warriors 4 Black Lives, says race is an integral part of how immigration functions in the US.
“Immigration, at its core, is really about defining this country as a white ethnostate in terms of power and privilege. And so white Europeans do not threaten that,” she said. “You don’t see ICE going around [St. Patrick’s Day parades] looking for the undocumented Irish people and trying to figure out how they can gather them up. But they will come to a Caribbean carnival. They will come to an African festival. But they won’t do that with white folks because the white people they’re not worried about.”
The Trump administration has not shied away from using immigration law to bolster its white supremacist beliefs, whether by effectively slaughtering the nation’s refugee system, allegedly referring to Haiti and African nations as “shithole” countries, or enacting a Muslim ban that Gyamfi refers to as “an African and Muslim ban at this point, that is preventing people from certain countries from coming into the United States, including Nigeria, a country with the most Black people on planet Earth.”
“These are pieces of machinery that have been in place, used by prior administrations. Just used with more intensity,” said Gyamfi. “We don’t want to act like there wasn’t trauma before, that there wasn’t violence before. But we cannot pretend that this has not been a really intense time when it comes to Black immigrants and immigration in general.”
Black immigrants are more likely to be placed in solitary confinement than non-Black immigrants and also have higher bonds, and therefore stay in ICE jails for longer periods of time. And during the current global pandemic, Black immigrants are left especially vulnerable.
“Everything that you hear about—from the cages to the malnutrition to the beatings, to the dying within the detention center to the facing COVID, living with COVID, the separation from families, all of those things that you hear about—are happening to Black immigrants and, again, are happening in many cases with a lot more ferocity,” said Gyamfi.
Even outside of the detention system, Black immigrants are also susceptible to America’s culture of anti-Blackness and police brutality. Botham Jean was born in St. Lucia and came to the United States to attend school. Amber Guyger, a former Dallas cop, killed Jean in his own apartment back in 2018. Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
“That, I think, is the nearest, biggest example that we’ve seen, that we actually saw in a beautiful way both Black immigrants and multigenerational African-Americans coming together to push back and say, ‘no, this will not stand,’” said Gyamfi.
Nana Gyamfi breaks down more shared issues between Black immigrants and Black Americans, how Black and trans immigrants are often treated in detention, why Black immigrants who are able to vote in this election should do so, and more in the video above.