Black Lives Matter is joining the fight against deportations—and it could be a game changer
By Jorge Rivas
The Black Lives Matter movement this week announced it has adopted a 10-point platform that includes a call to end all deportations. It could be a game changer.
Black Lives Matter, which started as a hashtag in 2013, has quickly evolved into a leading civil rights movement that until this week has mainly focused on policing issues that affect the black community. But on Monday the movement adopted a more comprehensive platform developed by the Movement for Black Lives, which has a list of demands, including a call for an “end to the war on Black immigrants.”
Specifically, the group is calling for an end to immigration raids, a halt to deportations and assurances that all immigrants have access to an attorney before going before an immigration judge.
“When you think about deportations and immigrants in detention it’s really under the banner of mass criminalization,” said Carl Lipscombe, who was involved in drafting the platform as a member of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a racial justice and immigrant rights organization. “The issues impacting immigrants are the exact same issues that impact black people in the United States.”
A rising share of the U.S. black population is foreign-born, and they’re disproportionately impacted by many of the same issues facing Latino immigrants. Black immigrants are nearly three times more likely to be detained and deported as a result of an alleged criminal offense, according to the Movement for Black Lives.
But the fight for immigrant rights still has a Latino face in this country. When I asked Lipscombe how often he saw stories about black immigrants in national newspapers or news channels he laughed: “Absolutely never.”
The Black Lives Matter movement could help change that.
By advocating for the rights of black immigrants, Black Lives Matter is targeting the same system that detains and deports all immigrant groups. And that’s creating a real opportunity for synergy between Black Lives Matter and Latino immigrant rights groups to unite in a common brown-and-black front.
“This could serve to build a bridge between the Black Lives Matter movement and the immigrant rights movement,” Lipscombe told Fusion.
“Immigration is an issue that affects us all in one way or another,” he added.
The immigrant rights movement and Black Lives Matter are strong forces to be reckoned with on their own, but together they would become one of the strongest grassroots movements in the country.
“This could serve to build a bridge between the Black Lives Matter movement and the immigrant rights movement”
- Carl Lipscombe
Lipscombe thinks it’s a natural fit, considering Black Lives Matter is focused on policing issues and millions of immigrants are in deportation proceedings as a result of being arrested.
The Obama administration maintains that immigration officials are prioritizing violent criminals for deportation, but the reality is that a broken tail light or possession of small amount of marijuana can land undocumented immigrants in deportation proceedings.
The platform adopted by Black Lives Matter this week calls for the repeal of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act that President Bill Clinton signed into law in 1996, which expanded the grounds for deportation to include criminal and noncriminal offenses under state law.
Another demand adopted by Black Lives Matter calls for all immigrants in deportation proceedings to be provided with an attorney. Immigrants facing deportations with lawyers are three times more likely to win their cases than those without attorneys. Yet, two-thirds of immigrants in detention don’t have legal representation, according to a 2014 study by the Stanford Law School’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and the Northern California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice.
In addition to the obvious areas of overlap, Lipscombe says the opportunities for collaboration between the immigrant rights and Black Lives Matter movements go beyond policing and immigration issues.
“Immigrants make some of the lowest wages of all groups in the United States, as do black people. And black immigrants tend to make the lowest wages of all immigrants in the United States,” Lipscombe said.
But meeting on common ground is trickier than it seems. Racism is one of the major obstacles to unity; black undocumented immigrants say they don’t always feel welcomed within the immigrant rights movement.
Jonathan Jayes-Green, a 24-year-old Afro-Latino, recently told Fusion he’s heard Latinos in the immigrant rights movement use racial slurs.“Anti-blackness has played a role in the mainstream immigrant rights movement,” Green.
Green, the co-founded the Undocublack Network, is working to “blackify” the narrative about undocumented immigrants in the United States.
It’s a way of looking at immigration issues more broadly, as something that disproportionately affects people of color, rather than as an atomized issue divided along lines of nationality.
Lipscombe says he’d like to see the immigrant rights movement advocate for immigration reform based on racial justice.
“We really need to look holistically how any reform of the immigration system can benefit all immigrants,” Lipscombe said.