“Black Lives Matter, and their impact on the history of American immigration can no longer be ignored.”

May 30, 2020
By Kimberly Gonzalez

Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.

We cannot continue having political discussions without recognizing that our voices are amplified by the continuous silencing of the Black community. As we attempt to navigate a world conflicted by a global pandemic, we must recognize the ‘normal’ we seek to replace is not one that should have ever existed. Police brutality is not a novel debut in the midst of ‘crazy and complicated’ times. It is, and will always continue to be, a present issue as long as systems that uphold and protect values of white supremacy within our country remain.

As we approach issues that expose our most vulnerable communities to perpetuated mistreatment and systemic oppression, we cannot ignore the inherent struggles that Black Americans have endured in order to progress freedoms that many other people of color and marginalized identities benefit from. The truth is hardly hidden: America was born out of indigenous genocide and built on the exploitation and dehumanization of Black lives. Because of that, our systems of justice and government cannot be scrutinized under the pretense of logistical or subjective flaws; it must be realized that these American institutions were never built to deliver the democracy they promise because their foundations have roots in a long and tiresome history of white and corporate violence.

At Youth for Border Aid, our primary focus is assisting those who seek a home in the United States as well as educating the next generation of leaders and citizens on the complexity of immigration which touches every aspect of our nation. This conversation, however, cannot be held without explicitly acknowledging the plight of the Black American community, who not only suffer from the unjust nature of the current immigration system but have had a hand in fighting for migrant rights. Black presence is inevitable in every single conversation. It is necessary.

When we speak on the history of immigration in a political context, we often opt for a Latinx-centered narrative; in these conversations, acknowledging the forced mass migrations from Africa (orchestrated by white supremacists) is essential. While immigration disproportionately impacts those of Hispanic or Latinx origin, the history of migration as we know it is a narrative deeply rooted in the suffering and enslavement of Black lives. The transport of nearly thirteen million Africans during a 400-year slave trade is where conversations on the politicization of immigration must begin, especially as we incorporate modern Black narratives into this discussion.

Black struggles for freedom and equality are perpetual, and form the foundation for many rights that migrants now benefit from. Historically, the constitutionality of citizenship was established as a result of the efforts of Black Americans. The Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution, which allows for those who were born on American soil or have undergone the naturalization process to become automatic citizens (a primary concern for many migrants), was realized with the help of Black struggles for citizenship the abolition of slavery (through the Thirteenth Amendment). These are some of the many historical instances that further implicate Black voices in the foundations of immigration politics.

When we denounce the caging of innocent children by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), or the actions of ICE in the continuous oppression of migrant lives, we cannot ignore that this system of policing is upheld by the same one that reduces Black Americans to a body count. Both systems work in tandem and directly impact immigration discourse.

Black Lives Matter. Not just in our conversations of immigration, but in every single corner of our nation.

Black Lives Matter. It shouldn’t have ever needed clarification.

Edited by Bella Perreira