Last week, we witnessed horrific scenes at the US-Mexico border as mostly white Border Patrol agents on horseback chased Black Haitian immigrants seeking safety in the US. These scenes, reminiscent of racist images from the Civil Rights Movement and earlier, follow after several years of notoriously inhumane treatment of immigrants that is deeply rooted in racism and xenophobia.
The United States has a cruel history of selective enforcement of immigration laws to capitalize on the immigrant workforce when it is convenient while treating immigrants as expendable when they are not seen as contributing to economic profit. In the 19th century, Chinese American immigrants were crucial to the development of the trans-continental railroad, only to be later barred from entering the country by the Chinese Exclusion Act. Mexican workers received visas to fill agricultural jobs during World War II, only to be intentionally targeted in an explicitly-racist deportation campaign a decade later. And now, as increasing numbers of Black immigrants from Caribbean and African nations enter the US, often finding work as caregivers for older adults, they too experience the racism rooted in the country’s criminal justice, policing, and immigration systems.
Black non-citizens make up only 7% of the US population but 20% of deportations. Black immigrants, and in particular Haitian immigrants, also face higher immigration costs, more frequent asylum rejections, and longer periods in criminal detention. As many Black Americans face stress from increased police stops and searches that violate their civil liberties, Black immigrants fear the additional burden that those police stops will lead to deportation, with devastating effects for all family members of all ages. As our country strives to be more equitable, it is imperative that racial justice is practiced in all of our systems, including immigration enforcement and policing.
Justice in Aging continues to support communities that are deeply impacted by systemic racism, and we are in solidarity with immigrants seeking a better life in the US.