Miami conference in Little Haiti aims to give more prominence to the issues and stories of black immigrants

05/24/2014 3:34 PM

05/24/2014 3:36 PM

More than 150 community leaders from across the country are gathered in Miami this weekend for a three-day conference aimed at raising the profile of black immigration to the United States.

Titled “Rising Together: Black Immigration Network Kinship Assembly,” the conference at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terrace., seeks to encourage black immigrants and African-Americans to forge close ties to work together toward ending deportations and incarceration of large numbers of black inmates in the United States.

“Our goals are fair and just immigration reform,” said Gerald Lenoir, co-director of the Brooklyn-based Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “To stop the deportations that are currently at record levels in this country and to uplift the leadership of immigrants of African descent and people of African descent as a whole in the movement for racial justice and immigrant rights.”

The conference marks an effort by immigration activists to give more prominence to the issues and stories of black immigrants against a backdrop in the struggle for immigration reform largely dominated by Hispanic immigrants.

“Immigration is a hotly contested issue and media often focus on Latino immigrants and conflict along the U.S.-Mexico border,” according to statement from organizers on the conference.

Hispanic immigrants are the majority of legal and undocumented immigrants in the United States.

A March 2013 Homeland Security Department report shows that Mexicans were the majority of permanent residents in the United States with a total of 146,406 receiving green cards in 2012. The total number of immigrants who became permanent residents in 2012 was 1,031,631.

Haitians, Jamaicans, Ethiopians and Nigerians accounted for slightly more than 71,000 becoming green card holders in 2012, the report said.

Another recent Homeland Security report on undocumented immigrants showed that Hispanics accounted for the majority of foreign nationals without papers.

Of the estimated 11.4 million undocumented immigrants, about 6.7 million are Mexicans, 690,000 are Salvadorans, 560,000 are Guatemalans and 360,000 are Hondurans.

Lenoir said the Miami conference also will discuss strategies to raise the profile of black immigrants issues such as the “mass detention and deportation of immigrants of color on the one hand and the mass incarceration of African-Americans.”

Almost two million undocumented immigrants have been deported since President Barack Obama took office in 2009.

Lenoir said deportations of black immigrants and incarceration of U.S. blacks for crimes were “two sides of the same coin.”

According to Lenoir, the deportations and the incarcerations are the result of “racial profiling” either by the police or immigration authorities.

“We look at this as a way to bring our communities together and address these issues,” said Lenoir. “We African-Americans fought very hard in the civil rights and black power movements to gain our rights.”

Meetings and workshops on Sunday include strategy sessions on Haitian family reunification, immigration reform and building improved understanding between African-Americans and black immigrants, a conference statement said.

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