“The deportation rate for undocumented black immigrants is because we are both black and undocumented simultaneously.”

The undocumented Black community is disproportionately detained and deported. And still, discussions of immigration reform and undocumented youth generally revolve around Latino immigrants from Mexico and Central America. To bring more visibility to the diversity of the undocumented student experience, I interviewed a recent college graduate from Connecticut—a young woman who is undocumented and Black. Her perspective helps shatter a common perception of U.S. immigration and disrupt the familiar narrative.

Melinda D. Anderson: In many accounts of the young undocumented immigrant, the protagonist is often a Latino youth from Mexico or Central America, whose family came to the U.S. to escape extreme poverty and violence in their home countries. Talk about how this dominant narrative can render the black and non-Latino immigrant experience invisible—absent from discussion and attention.

Ainslya Charlton: One concrete example is that the Black Alliance for Just Immigration(BAJI) found that black immigrants are being detained and deported at five times the rate of our proportion in the undocumented community. Many people do not realize that the immigration system is just as subject to anti-blackness as other government [systems] that are associated with enforcing structural racism. Resources that are donated with the intent to help undocumented immigrants are often targeted towards organizations that focus their efforts on Latino communities. This creates conditions where some of the only resources that are available for undocumented immigrants also have ethnicity restrictions that leave many that do not fit that mold behind.

Still yet, many of the anti-deportation protests are centered on Latinos that do not identify with an African descent. And microaggressions often happen within the immigrant-rights movement. Afro-Latinos and others are often dismissed when we make requests for translations into languages other than Spanish—such as Garifuna, French, and Portuguese. I once saw a flyer posted on Facebook for an action that was called “A Day Without Latinos” that was organized in response to an anti-immigrant bill. When I pointed out that there were people from other ethnicities that were also undocumented in that state [Wisconsin] and would also be impacted by that bill, people commented on my post by saying that if I had an issue with the way that the action was advertised, I should go out and protest instead of sitting at home. Since the face of the immigrant-rights movement does not include people like me, the assumption was that I wasn’t doing any work within the movement as an individual who identifies as an undocumented black woman … We have to advocate for ourselves and the issues that disproportionately impact us [in activist and political circles] where immigration is openly understood as a Latino issue.

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