NABG Newsletter Issue 13: Always Excluded: The Black Immigrant Experience in the United States

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Every day we work to resist the mainstream racist and dangerous rhetoric around immigration. In the United States, Black immigrants make up 8.4% of the overall population of immigrants. Of that 8.4%, 48% of Black immigrants come from the Caribbean, 43% from African countries, and 3.6% from South America. These narratives are too often erased and excluded, and the lack of attention on these populations compounds inequities that also go ignored. For example, Black immigrants who have no legal paperwork only make up 7% of the undocumented population, and yet they are 20% of deportations.

There is no clear path for Black immigrants to gain access to the support they need to have a quality life in this country. The government has shown that it refuses to protect immigrants, and due to the history of white supremacy and anti-Blackness in the United States, Black immigrant families will be hurt the most.Achieving immigration and racial justice is a core component of A National Agenda for Black Girls policy platform. We believe the following:

Black girls deserve to be free from the fear of family separation through deportation and have full access to basic human rights, including health care and education, regardless of immigration status.

Families belong together. Political leaders must commit to providing safety and pathways to opportunity for all people, regardless of their immigration status. Black women and girls who are immigrants are twice as likely to be uninsured, which is particularly harmful for migrants who live in states that have not expanded Medicaid. Black women, girls, and gender-expansive youth deserve to have access to quality health care, education, and job opportunities, without fear of prosecution or deportation.

Impact on Black Girls and Youth

In times of uncertainty, we know that Black girls and transgender young folks suffer the most due to neglect and exploitation. Black immigrant youth face the same neglect and exploitation, and must also contend with being denied the unique supports needed to get through these times.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (DACA) gave young people who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 15 an opportunity to gain access to work authorization and a social security number. Having these documents will allow roughly 12,000 Black immigrant youth the opportunity to work and support their families. Due to the current pandemic, most immigrant families are displaced from jobs, leaving the young people who are still employed with the financial burden of caring for their households.

Society has long overlooked the infrastructural needs of Black immigrants, despite their continued contributions to our society. In this moment caused by COVID-19, it is Black immigrants who are holding the frontlines. They are working on behalf of all Americans while receiving none of the support or resources they need to keep themselves safe. While articles have highlighted the trials many undocumented workers face, they’ve left out the experiences of Black essential workers.

The Economic Impact Payment Does Not Reach Everyone

The most recent Economic Impact Payments (aka stimulus checks) under the CARES Act were distributed through Social Security Numbers (SSNs), a strategy that inevitably excluded most immigrants. Democrats pushed for checks to be dispersed through SSNs and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITINS) in order to reach more people, however, this effort was ultimately rejected.

Additionally, some U.S. citizens do not qualify for stimulus checks, because they are in “mixed-status” families. To have “mixed-status” means that family members have different citizenship or immigration statuses. One example of a mixed-status family would be a family where the parents are immigrants and the children were born in the U.S. The family may not receive stimulus payments they otherwise qualified for because of this mixed status, which will exacerbate any financial stress brought on by COVID-19

There are some creative solutions. California is giving $500 to undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for the stimulus check. The Emergency Money for the People Act would provide any person above the age of 16 with a $2,000 monthly payment for up to twelve months. Representative Ilhan Omar introduced the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act to help protect families from housing insecurity.

COVID-19 & Public Charge

“Public Charge” is a term used by the government when determining citizenship eligibility. Any undocumented person who has received one or more of a specific set of public benefits for more than 12 months within any 36-month period may become a public charge, which could have negative affects for their immigration status.

Due to COVID-19, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is encouraging all individuals, including undocumented folks, who are experiencing symptoms related to the coronavirus to seek medical and preventative services. However it’s unclear how taking advantage of these public benefits will affect other essential benefits or an individual’s public charge assessment. Immigration assistance organizations have been releasing resources that explains the new implications of COVID-19 on Public Charge status:

Supportive Actions

For all the reasons outlined in this newsletter, mutual aids for immigrant families are more important than ever, as they reduce the need to apply for public benefits and provide no-strings-attached support. Consider giving what you can to the local and national funds supporting Black immigrants, communities and essential workers below:

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