In recent years Black migrants have shifted the common immigration narrative that traditionally begins with troubled journeys leading to eventual acceptance. Now, even the New York Times brought the fall season in with an article on how the ‘Influx of African Immigrants’ actually reveals mistaken beliefs that the U.S. is “the Mecca for Africans.” Even earlier, Christina Greer’s 2013 book on “Black Ethnics” was animated by the reality of Black immigrants and our political destiny. Black Alliance (coupons) in particular has been at the forefront of transforming foregone conclusions about Black migrants into political questions. We have made it necessary for everyone to think of Black Immigrants socially and politically.
Demographic Advantage or Democrats Need Us
Considering the political landscape the first statement we must make is that the two major political parties are incapable of advocating on behalf of Black immigrants. Republicans have very harsh immigration policies and Democrats who were unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform are losing political power. This is particularly important considering how Black communities in general vote. The first signs of this reality should have been clear when Democrats were unable to propose universal healthcare when they controlled Congress. With the re-election of President Obama due in part because of an immigration-aided demographic advantage many assumed that Democrats were in control and would support broad immigration reform while the Republican Party would fail because they couldn’t connect with immigrants. But the national picture did not predict the local landscape. The political landscape has been complicated by ineffective advocacy on both sides of the aisle, a Republican resurgence in the House, and now a crumbling Democratic majority in the Senate. This trend was particularly pronounced in Florida where the local demographics made Obama the first Democrat to win Florida consecutively in recent memory. The margin of victory was thin and, despite the actual politics of the White House, given political campaigns we can be excited for our communities can still shift election outcomes. This is the same Florida that Democrats have now lost to Rick Scott the GOP candidate for governor. We have many options in our political toolkit but if we are going to use voting then we need to disregard the notion that we need the Democratic Party because of the Republican menace. We can’t count on either party to advocate for Black immigrants. The Democrats in particular are in trouble but we don’t need them; to be viable, they need us.
Don’t Just Assimilate Agitate
It is never acceptable to take crumbs when you write the recipe. When the Department of Homeland Security announced the creation of a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program after Haitian-Americans had built campaigns spanning the length of country we should have known that our work had only began. Those of you who are familiar have seen the continuous effort to create a comprehensive parole program. So with a waitlist standing between 110,000 Haitians and their Haitian-American family members we were given a very limited program that was open to only 5,000 people. This offer is all the more reason to continue pushing for a much broader program because after announcing this limited program the Obama administration cannot undo that pledge without significant political consequences. We must press for more as the details of the program are being planned, we must press for more because it is our right. This was the conversation we established during the #ReuniteHaitianFams online discussion. Our plan can’t be to simply to bring our families here and try to assimilate culturally but to organize politically and agitate.
What is the (Black) Immigrant Agenda?
If the journey to Reunite Haitian American Families has taught us anything is that we must set our agenda internally. Gaining support from both sides of the aisle is no longer enough. In Minnesota, the Freedom and Justice Party is building independently of the two parties with the Ebola crisis as its main agenda item. Black Immigration Network member, BYP100 is part of a major effort to present police brutality before the UN as systemic genocide. These are just a few ways we can begin to outline the beginnings of a national agenda for Black immigrants. Police brutality can even be expanded and stand within the context of other forms of state violence. The lack of adequate healthcare options that the Democrats were unable to address is one example. Even though we can’t set the agenda within the Democratic Party locally our communities are strongly represented in a range of service-delivery professions that we can politicize to meet our needs. In New York City, this is being done by nurses’ unions that are working to run a local hospital as a worker co-op that would offer address healthcare in a broader way. In so far as Republicans are uninterested and Democrats have abandoned universal healthcare, can we realize it outside the boundaries of their disregard? These are just a few examples of how we can begin to imagine our own political destiny.