Black Immigrants in America: Immigration Law and Black History Month

February 12, 2021

If you don’t know history.

While many Black immigrants in America know and are proud of their heritage, the horrific effects of centuries of enslaving Black people in the United States has had the effect of robbing many Black Americans of the ability to know or trace their cultural heritage. Despite being faced with countless obstacles, Black immigrants and their descendants have shaped the fabric of the United States and are an essential part of American history. Significant events such as the Harlem Renaissance (a golden age of Black literature, poetry and art) or the creation of blues, jazz and rock music would not have been possible without the contributions of Black immigrants in the United States.

Around 10% of individuals who come to the United States from Africa, the Caribbean, and Central and South America identify as Black. These individuals may come to the U.S. to temporarily visit, attend school, permanently immigrate on a family relationship or employment opportunity, or seek asylum from persecution.

The Present: Black Immigrants in America and Black History Month

Black families from all over the world are also brought to the United States as refugees, with lawful immigration status, by governmental refugee resettlement organizations. Lutheran Family Services, Catholic Social Services, and the Refugee Empowerment Center provide refugees in Nebraska with a safe place to live, English classes, access employment opportunities, and other life-saving and cultural services. In 2019, the majority of refugees brought to the United States by Congress and the Department of State originally came from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, and Sudan. In fact, the majority of South Sudanese immigrants and refugees in the entire U.S. live here in Omaha, Nebraska!

While slavery is officially in the past, echos of slavery-era policies and mentalities persist in modern American culture. Though slavery was prohibited in 1875, it was not until 2020 that Nebraska officially removed slavery as a criminal punishment from the state constitution.

These effects of implicit bias against Black individuals are also evident in patterns of immigration enforcement. Despite making up only 10% of immigrants, Black immigrants in the U.S. experience disproportionate rates of immigration detention or deportation and removal compared to non-Black immigrants. This week alone hundreds of Black noncitizens, including infants and children, have been deported to countries they originally fled, including countries such as Cameroon and Haiti which are currently experiencing severe political turmoil.

Change Is the Law of Life

Organizations such as the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, the UndocuBlack Network and the Haitian Bridge are a beacon of hope and are working hard to change U.S. immigration policy, advocate for Black immigrant rights, and bring light to the unique challenges in place for Black immigrants.

When celebrating Black History Month this year, don’t forget to include Black immigrants!

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 

If you need help with an Immigration case, contact Hightower Reff Law today and call our Immigration hotline at 402-932-9116 for a free immigration law consultation or come visit with one of the attorneys at the Omaha office.



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