In the United States, we have not always lived up to our ideals to be a welcoming place for those who come here seeking freedom and opportunity. Yet, even as the Biden administration has taken steps to overhaul our immigration system, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has continued to deport women, men, children and families who seek safety and security in the United States.
On Monday of this week alone, ICE deported at least 72 people — including a 2-month-old baby and 21 other children — to Haiti, a country in the midst of extreme political unrest. This is just one of several deportation flights to Caribbean and African countries that have taken off since Biden took office. In fact, Black immigrants are more likely to be detained and deported than the overall immigrant population. That these deportations of Black immigrants are taking place during Black History Month reinforces the need to recognize the link between immigrant justice and racial justice.
ICE’s deportation policies have a devastating effect on all immigrant communities, especially Black immigrant communities. These deportations traumatize families, threaten the diversity of our communities, and in the past year have needlessly contributed to the spread of COVID-19. They also raise serious human rights concerns. Last year, the SPLC and its allies filed a multi-individual complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) condemning the agency for using excessive force to coerce Cameroonian asylum seekers into signing their own deportation papers.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Kelvin Silva arrived in the U.S. with his father, a U.S. citizen, when he was 11. Silva is now 44 and a long-time resident and valued community member in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is currently facing deportation under an arcane rule that prevented U.S. citizen fathers from passing citizenship to children who were born out of wedlock. Silva, who is currently in the custody of ICE at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Ga., faces deportation to the Dominican Republic, a country that is unfamiliar to him and where Silva will likely find himself homeless and thousands of miles from family or relatives.
“I’m asking for a chance to stay with my family,” said Kelvin Silva. “That’s who I am fighting this case for. My family, and for other families like mine, other people like me. I have taken responsibility for my choices and served my sentence. All I want is to be with my family. If I’m deported, I don’t know when or if I will see them again.”
Immigrant families are an essential part of the fabric of American communities, and tragically, Kelvin’s story is just one of many examples of how deportations fracture Black immigrant families and threaten the stability of their communities. Cameroonian asylum seekers represented in a DHS complaint filed by the SPLC and its allies were subjected to coercive tactics, including threats of violence and direct physical abuse. Fingerprints were taken while individuals were restrained, pepper spray was used against those who declined to sign their deportation papers.
At the SPLC, an important part of our work is helping people like Kelvin Silva navigate a broken and inhumane immigration system that often punishes Black immigrants especially harshly. You can help us stop the unnecessary and harmful deportations of Black immigrants right now by emailing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and asking him to stop all deportations.
Thank you for taking a stand to protect Black immigrants and their families. You’re contributing to a national movement working towards a just, functional and compassionate immigration system.