• Lynn Tramonte

Ohio Community Leaders in Cleveland Scene: Mauritanian Deportations, Human Rights Abuses Can No Long

(cross-posted from Ohio Immigrant Alliance)

A mosque in Mauritania
Photo Credit: Joyce Young

Cleveland, OH – Cleveland Scene just published a must-read article about the deportation crisis that Ohio families of Mauritanian background are living today. Read or listen to the full story here.

Reporter Sam Allard deftly weaves through the human rights abuses that forced Black Mauritanians to flee their country two decades ago; the rebuilding of their lives in Ohio; and how an abrupt change in U.S. immigration policy by President Trump is destroying their futures and their families.

Houleye Thiam, a Columbus community leader and President of the Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in the US, has been organizing with African Immigrant Relief and members of the broader community to put a stop to these deportations. She said: "The Mauritanian story needs to be told. The government has been enslaving, deporting, raping and killing its citizens for 50-plus years, and it has lasted this long because they have been able to keep this secret."

The tragedy befalling Ohio’s Mauritanians was first exposed by Franklin Foer of the The Atlantic, as an example of how dramatically U.S. immigration policy has changed under Trump. Since then there has been international, national, and local coverage of these cases, including documentation of abuses that Ohio deportees experienced after being sent back to Mauritania, also reference in Scene.

Lynn Tramonte, Director of Ohio Immigrant Alliance, said: “The Scene article on Mauritanian deportations is one of the most comprehensive we have seen to date. It should be an eye-opener for many who were unaware that such a preventable tragedy was unfolding in our Ohio communities.”

Allard’s article is a primer on the human rights abuses taking place in Mauritania today, from slavery to human trafficking to other forms of exploitation. After spending months in immigration jail, Ohioans of Mauritanian descent have been deported, arrested, and tortured upon arrival in their “home” country.

“Prisons in Mauritania make the beleaguered Cuyahoga County facility look like the Ritz,” Allard writes, a bone-chilling truth.

There is an overt racial element to Mauritania’s inequality. Allard quotes Abdoulaye Sow, a Mauritanian activist from Cincinnati, at a forum hosted by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in May: “[Mauritanian government officials] do everything they can to make the country uninhabitable for the black population. That is the reason for many of their policies: so that the blacks will go away, so that the minority can become the majority."

This human rights record has lead the Trump administration to cancel certain trade benefits for Mauritania, Allard explains, but has not convinced them to stop deporting Mauritanians from the U.S.

Ohio Immigrant Alliance and partners are raising money for the legal defense of Black Mauritanians in deportation here. Read more about the situation here; join the Ohio Immigrant Alliance here.

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