OC Office Addresses Immigration, Refugee Needs
By Dianne Anderson
Immigration policy is always a trending topic, and Blacks may not be the first group to come to mind, unless threatened on horseback by patrol at the borders of the Haitian conversation, it hardly makes headlines.
But Black immigrants are significantly represented, according to a Pew Research Center report, accounting for one of every ten Blacks in America.
Masih Fouladi said their organization recognizes that Black immigrants are often left out of talks and planning, not just for immigration services, but for system change.
Of the organizations that CAIR-LA works with, about one-third are either Black-led or service Black immigrant communities. They also partner with the African Coalition, and Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) to reach the Black immigrant community, primarily Somalian, Ethiopian, Sudanese and Nigerian communities in Southern California.
“Each of us does the work a little differently. We do primarily legal services. A lot of organizations do housing, or food assistance,” said Fouladi, Deputy Executive Director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA).
Last week, the Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to establish an Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs (OIRA). Some support for the office and future work comes by way of a $500,000 commitment from Supervisor Doug Chafee’s office, pulled from his Fourth District’s American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The new Orange County office is still at a very early operational stage, but Fouladi hopes to soon meet with the County Executive Office and with Sup. Chafee’s office. He also wants to see more community feedback from the 22 organizations that signed on to the recent letter in support of the office.
The motion for the new office was authored by Supervisor Doug Chaffee and Vice Chairman Andrew Do, and includes several recommendations from CAIR-LA, as well as other local advocacy groups.
Priorities include forming a taskforce of local immigrant and refugee communities to make recommendations and hire a director level county employee to lead the OIRA office.
They also want a tighter focus on business promotions and partnerships to increase job creation and countywide economic development, more philanthropic opportunities and support for immigrants with legal services, education and youth development.
Fouladi said that identifying where the need exists is important to address the issues and the gaps in services.
“Even in creating the mission for the office here in Orange County to determine what that mission should look like. We obviously want the Black community to be active participants in that process,” he said.
In America in general, he said several layers of overlap exist in the Black immigrant community, including racial profiling, hiding in the shadows, or being swept into the system. CAIR said their goal is to be intentional with outreach to address the issues.
“We definitely agree that unfortunately the intersection of being Black, being an immigrant, or even being Muslim can make them an even bigger target from many perspectives, immigration perspective, and a hate perspective,” he said.
CAIR-LA also reports that more than 30% of Orange County’s population are immigrants. Over half, 53% of children in Orange County have one immigrant parent. AAPI and Latino immigrants account for 45.2% and 44.8% of Orange County’s foreign-born population, respectively, and 40% of businesses in Orange County are owned by immigrants.
In a joint study, NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and BAJI also looked at unequal justice of Black immigrants, and found they are removed from America at a much higher rate than the overall immigrant population.
In the State of Black Immigrants report, researchers found disproportionate mass incarceration. While Black immigrants only comprise 5.4% of the unauthorized population in the U.S. and 7.2% of the total noncitizen population, they made up 10.6% of all immigrants in removal proceedings between 2003 and 2015.
More than one of every five people facing deportation on criminal grounds before the Executive Office of Immigration Review is Black.
“There is no evidence that Black immigrants commit crime at greater rates than other immigrants. Yet while Black immigrants make up only 7.2% of the noncitizen population in the U.S., they make up 20.3% of immigrants facing deportation before the EOIR on criminal grounds. That’s compared to 10% of all immigrants in deportation proceedings before EOIR who have criminal grounds of removability,” the report said.
In a recent statement, BAJI stressed that the kind of hate immigrants face is reflected across society, such as with Ralph Yarl, the son of Liberian immigrants who was shot by a white man for knocking on the wrong door while trying to pick up his little brothers.
On top of the undeniable inequities, BAJI also points to the race-hate element. Patrick Lyoya, Alfred Olango, Irv Otieno, Charley Keunang, Shantel Davis, Kisha Michael, Bade Al Jabir and Amadou Diallo were all killed, not because of citizenship or immigration status, but just because they were Black in an anti-Black society.
“We are thankful that Ralph Yarl survived this attack and is home healing with his family. We look forward to his family receiving justice. BAJI continues in our efforts to protect our community members by providing the political education, power-building, and other tools necessary to dismantle white supremacy and fight for racial justice.
For more information on CAIR-LA, see https://ca.cair.com/losangeles/
To see BAJI studies, https://baji.org/resources/
This news story was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.