MIAMI-DADE — A five-year-old national organization focusing on black immigration to the United States will hold three days of talks this weekend in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.
The “Black Immigration Network Kinship Assembly: A Gathering for Action” conference will also discuss racial justice and continue its pursuit of unity among the diverse segments of the black immigrant Diaspora as a means of economic advancement.
The conference is being hosted by the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based, Black Immigration Network and co-hosted by local grassroots organizations such as the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the Dream Defenders, Power U,
Haitian Women of Miami, Florida New Majority and the Caribbean Lawyers Association.
It will take place Friday, May 23, through Sunday, May 25, at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terr., coinciding with the culmination of the month-long celebration of Haitian Heritage Month.
Using the theme “Rising Together,” an expected 150 community leaders from around the nation will seek “to build transformative change and mutual understanding between African Americans and African immigrants on issues of race, culture and identity,” according to an announcement from the organizers. The Center for American Progress reported that, in 2013, black immigrants comprised more than three million people or eight percent of the U.S. population born overseas.
More than half of those were from the Caribbean, with the rest mostly coming from Northern Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, with a small number from Europe and Canada. They comprise more than one-quarter of the black population in New York, Boston and Miami.
In terms of the Caribbean, Jamaica and Haiti have ranked among the top countries sending immigrants, followed by Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.
Most of the black immigrants, especially those from the Caribbean, immigrate legally through family ties. The center says refugees from Ethiopia, Somalia, Liberia, Sudan and Eritrea accounted for 30 percent of all black African immigrants in 2009 and around one-fifth of black African immigrants came through the U.S. government’s lottery program which offers 55,000 visas each year to countries from which few immigrants come. The center also says that around 400,000 black undocumented immigrants live in the country.
According to BIN, the rate of detention and deportation for black immigrants is five times that of other immigrant groups.
Any plan for comprehensive immigration reform, the group says, must deal with the “critical concerns and unique issues” which black immigrants face.
According to the center, some 12.5 percent of black immigrants were without jobs in 2011, representing the highest jobless rate of any foreign-born group.
In addition, BIN says, while black immigrants have high levels of formal education and English proficiency, their earnings are relatively low. The group says that, in 2007, the median annual earnings for black immigrants were $27,000, or just slightly higher than the $26,000 average for all immigrants, but 20 percent less than the average of $33,000 for U.S.-born workers.
“Black immigrants and African Americans have the highest unemployment, highest incarceration, lowest wages and many more challenges facing us. This is our attempt to rectify that because our communities deserve justice and dignity and we should have a fighting chance,” said Opal Tometi, co-director of Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a BIN member group.
BIN says its goal is to unite the various black immigration groups and focus on the issues they face, which it blames on current immigration policy.
“We believe that the struggle for immigrant rights is one of the cutting-edge issues in the fight for racial justice and democracy in the United States today,” the group states on its website. “Racism and economic globalization has created displacement and poverty in all of our communities and countries. Black immigrants, other immigrants of color and people of color in general are being exploited and scapegoated for many of the economic problems the U.S. has experienced.”
Trina Jackson, of the Boston-based Network for Immigrants and African Americans in Solidarity, calls for an end to what she describes as African Americans being pitted against immigrants. “We embrace and love one another and know that our commitment to justice is a commitment to all of us,” she said.
That’s the view also of Donald Anthonyson, an organizer with the New York-based Families for Freedom.
“It is important in this heightened moment for Afro Immigrants and African Americans to continue to traverse the bridges that were built during past struggles like the civil rights fights, the various independence movements and the dismantling of the racist apartheid system,” he said.
The goal of this weekend’s meeting, the group says, “is to develop a network that nurtures relationships among black-led organizations, build collective strategies for justice, and provide support to make their work more effective.”
It has already done some work in that direction.
BIN says it adopted a “10 Principles for Just and Inclusive Immigration Reform” platform in March 2013 and also mobilized hundreds of African Americans and black immigrants for a national rally at the U.S. Capitol.
It also established a partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus and organized a panel for the caucus’ annual Legislative Conference in 2013 on “Pan African Immigration Reform.”
Registration information for the “Black Immigration Network Kinship Assembly: A Gathering for Action” conference may be found at http://blackimmigration.net