• Lynn Tramonte

NBC News Uncovers DHS’ Single-Minded Focus on Deportation Over Diplomacy and Human Rights

Long-Term US Resident from Mauritania:

“I ran away for my life. Even now I’m still running.”

Cleveland, OH - The Trump administration is putting deportation above all other priorities, and the proof is in a new NBC News piece by Lisa Riordan Seville, Adiel Kaplan, and Dan De Luce.

The article, “The Trump admin sent him ‘home’ to a land where slavery lives on,” describes how nationals of Mauritania, Cambodia, Laos, and Iraq are newly facing deportation after years of living in the United States, due to the Trump administration’s single-minded focus on deportation. “It’s an unprecedented push to deport a relative small number of people,” writes NBC News.

It is also inordinately expensive. The article states:

This summer, to foot the bill for skyrocketing detention and removal costs, the Trump administration quietly funneled $202 million toward detention and removals from other budget lines within DHS, including FEMA.
More than half of the increase went to cover a nearly 30 percent overrun for transportations and removals. A key justification was the growing number of special charters ICE was running to once-recalcitrant countries, like the flight that took Issa Sao back to Mauritania last month. A single charter flight can cost more than $600,000, according to declaration from an ICE official from a lawsuit about deportations to Iraq.

Under Trump, the U.S. government has written itself a blank check to deport immigrants, no matter the costs to taxpayers, society, families, and human life.

Take the example of Mauritania, where DHS is ignoring warnings from the Trump Administration’s own CIA, State Department, and US Trade Representative, and putting people’s lives at risk, simply because they want to increase deportations:

In early November, Trump cut off trade benefits to Mauritania for its failure to combat forced labor and "the scourge of hereditary slavery." …. Yet since Trump took office, the U.S. has deported a record number of people to that very country. The 79 deportations last fiscal year mark a more than 900 percent increase over years prior, according to an NBC News analysis of ICE data.

The administration is literally bullying countries in order to achieve more deportations. In a dramatic change since Trump took office, Mauritania is now accepting the return of people who fled this country and sought asylum in the United States, despite the fact that Mauritania does not consider them to be citizens and refuses to issue them passports. Once back in Mauritania, they become subject to punishment for being “undocumented” and “dissidents.”

Many have been arrested and tortured upon arriving in Mauritania this year. As soon as they gain release they flee to other countries to avoid persecution and the trappings of hereditary slavery--they very abuses they fled two decades ago.

As Julie Nemecek, attorney for a number of Black Mauritanians who have been deported since Trump took office, told NBC News: "This isn't just about immigration. It's our government handing people to their persecutors."

This very fact, and the fear that the U.S. government is instilling upon so many people who have made this country their home, is tragic and un-American. NBC News writes:

Last summer, word of a shift at ICE started spreading through the tight-knit community of Mauritanians living in Columbus, Ohio.
Most were asylum seekers from the desert country in northwestern Africa driven out in a bloody ethnic conflict that began in 1989, when the ruling minority of Arab Moors expelled some 70,000 non-Arabs.
The purge left thousands of black Mauritanians effectively stateless. Those who now return arrive without citizenship papers. Advocates told NBC News that leaves them vulnerable to enslavement, which despite being officially abolished in 1981, is still pervasive.
But Mauritanians had long felt safe in the U.S. Even those like Sao who had lost asylum cases were allowed to remain because Mauritania didn't recognize them as citizens and refused to take them back. DHS had granted them work permits, set up regular check-ins and allowed them to stay.

Photo Credit: Davonte Butler/ UndocuBlack Network

Savings from jobs on factory lines and at small businesses paid for down payments on houses. They married, settled down, had kids.

After 26 years, limbo came to feel like permanence for Sy, who asked that his first name not be used. Like Sao, he had no criminal record, but had lost his asylum case and faced a standing order for deportation. Once a year, he checked in with ICE, then went at the agency's bidding to the Mauritanian embassy to request a passport so ICE could deport him. Each time, Mauritania turned him down. He went back to his daily life.
He sold clothes by day, drove Lyft by night and cared for his four children in between, including his disabled son.
"I felt I was free," he said.
Then came the messages from friends in Columbus and Cincinnati. Mauritanians turned down for a passport just months before learned suddenly that ICE had obtained a temporary travel document — known as a laissez passer — that would allow them to be deported. But they still would not have any proof of citizenship when they landed in the country.
As men like Sao were arrested at ICE check-ins and boarded onto planes, Sy felt his own stability slipping away. He now checks in with ICE every three months. Each time, he tells his children if he doesn't return to them, it's because agents dragged him away.
"I ran away from the country 26 years ago. I ran away for my life," said Sy. "Even now I'm still running."

Read the entire NBC News piece here. For more on deportations to Mauritania, see this short overview and this new video.

NB: African Immigrant Relief is teaming up with the Ohio Immigrant Alliance and Cleveland Jobs with Justice to raise money for legal fees, bonds, and related expenses to stop the deportation of Black Mauritanians to statelessness, slavery, and other atrocities. Text to donate: ATHOME to 44321.

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