DDLN Stands with Black Lives Matter
We are deeply saddened that the threads of racial injustice against Black Americans are still very much woven in the fabric of America’s social, economic, and justice systems. We value the lives, the purpose, the businesses, and the families of our Black American brothers and sisters. The spirit of “tu lucha es mi lucha” rings truer than ever in the fight for justice and widespread change. We stand with you to #DefendBlackLIfe. We join the call for radical, sustainable solutions that affirm the prosperity of Black lives throughout America.
The challenges that bind us together
The Deportation Defense Legal Network (DDLN) recognizes the common challenges that face Black Americans and Black immigrants for racial justice and human rights. We stand with Black Lives Matter in imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic and political power to thrive. We acknowledge that while the experiences of both marginalized groups are different, we also recognize what binds us lies at the root of the issue. Among which are mass criminalization, mass incarceration, policing system, deprivation of civil rights and civil liberties, and the destruction of families and communities, perpetuated by the existing laws.
Blacks are far more likely than any other population to be arrested, convicted, and imprisoned in the U.S. criminal enforcement system -- the system upon which immigration enforcement increasingly relies. The disparities exist even when crime rates are the same. For instance, although Blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates, Black people are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Anti-blackness against immigrants in America
More than one out of every five non-citizens facing deportation on criminal grounds is Black. Black immigrants are much more likely than nationals from other regions to be deported due to a criminal conviction. In 2013, more than three quarters of Black immigrants were removed on criminal grounds, in contrast to less than half of immigrants overall. In 2015, three times as many African immigrants were removed for an immigration charge as for a criminal charge, and twice as many Caribbean immigrants were removed for a criminal charge than for an immigration charge.
The high proportion of immigrants with criminal records who are targeted for immigration enforcement is the result of an intentional and pervasive reliance on the machinery of the criminal enforcement system to identify people for deportation. The criminal enforcement system has become a funnel into the immigration detention and deportation system.
Black immigrants made up 10.9% of all cases in which immigration courts terminated proceedings in 2015 because there were no grounds for removal. The government’s increasing focus on immigrants with criminal records disproportionately impacts Black immigrants, who are more likely than immigrants from other regions to have criminal convictions, or at least to be identified through interactions with local law enforcement, because of rampant racial profiling.
Many detention contracts are given to local jails or private prisons. As a result, immigrants living in detention facilities often endure prolonged detention in subpar conditions. There is often a lack of competent medical staff to diagnose and properly treat detainees with acute mental health disorders and other health conditions. There is little oversight at these detention facilities, and under such conditions arbitrary decisions are regularly made, which leads to medical negligence and in worse cases, the death of the immigrant. For instance, in 2017 Black Latino Jeancarlo Jimenez-Joseph, a Panamanian national in ICE custody at Stewart Detention Center, suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, yet was placed in solitary confinement for 19 days. Due to his prolonged detention and the medical negligence of the detention facility, Mr. Jimenez-Joseph died by suicide on the 19th day of his confinement. Since his death, many other immigrant detainees have died in detention of health complications.
Why we exist
The Detention Defense Legal Network (DDLN) works to seek due process for detained immigrants by providing pro bono legal representation at bond hearings and orientation to detained immigrants in Missouri and Kansas. The DDLN connects unrepresented immigration detainees with desperately needed legal services. They also provide legal orientations to detainees in ICE custody. A person who is placed in immigration deportation proceedings does not have the right to free legal representation and are afforded few procedural protections. As a result, immigrants often have no other choice but to represent themselves, and are left to navigate a notoriously complex and bureaucratic system on their own. We are part of a coalition working to expand access to legal representation for all immigrants.
If not for the stories we tell, we would have no trace of our history. We asked a few Black identifying immigrants to share their stories about becoming a part of the phenomenon that takes place within the current prison industrial complex, which disproportionately affects communities of all people of color. The United States’ government's increase in focus on immigrants with criminal records disproportionately impacts Black immigrants, who are often identified through interactions with local law enforcement because of rampant racial profiling, and immigration detention centers do not differ in any significant way from criminal correctional facilities.
Our friends’ stories (watch videos), though different in many aspects from the Black American experience, provide anecdotal evidence of the shared disparaging societal trends that we see in communities of people of color. We believe these to be human rights issues that transcend both communities. Though Black Americans and Black Immigrants have remained at the margins of society, we are making a conscious effort to consolidate Black power in our community and stand together in the fight for these systems to be gutted and restructured.
The change we hope to see this time
The U.S. should adopt policies that end the mass criminalization of Black Americans and address racial disparities in the immigration enforcement regime. Too many Black and Brown immigrants suffer in immigration detention, causing physical, emotional, and mental trauma. We believe the gutting of the industrial prison complex is long overdue. We join the call to reinvest public funds in the health and propserity of Black communities and the demilitarization of criminal and immigration law enforcement. No one should die at the hands of police or in our immigration detention centers. We honor Jeancarlo and all others who have been victims of these systems by calling for a new day where Black Lives Matter.