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International Migrants Day: Appreciating the Immigrant Experience

UUSC commemorates the holiday by learning more about the immigrant experience through the lens of one of its partners.
Undocublack gathering

By UUSC Staff on December 16, 2022

In honor of International Migrants Day on December 18, UUSC interviewed Patrice Lawrence, executive director of UUSC partner the UndocuBlack Network (UBN). In her time at UBN, she is steadily leading the charge on what currently and formerly undocumented Black immigrants need by making their demands clear on a local and national level. Patrice is a fierce advocate for liberation of all peoples and towards that vision has been a leader in building unity across racial and ethnic communities. Originally from Jamaica, Patrice has penned op-eds for CNN, Black Star News, and NewsOne.

Could you describe three projects/campaigns that UndocuBlack has worked on this year?

We want to see an end to institutions that criminalize Black bodies for profit through the prison industrial complex and through the forced removal of Black bodies from the places they call home and to that effect we have been at work to produce reports, do research and hold the government and its systems responsible for the mistreatment of Black migrants. 

As such, we have authored and contributed to the publications of groundbreaking reports like Uncovering the Truth, Criminalizing Blackness, and They Did Not Treat Us Like People. We also victoriously held the government accountable by jointly filing the FOIA lawsuit regarding the Del Rio incident

In partnership with Cameroon Advocacy Network (CAN), we led efforts calling on the administration to designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Cameroon, which was eventually designated in June 2022. Beyond the designation, UBN led the effort to highlight the blatant racism between the designation of TPS for Ukraine and various countries lacking TPS. As such we were also able to increase pressure so that TPS for Haiti could be redesignated. These winds will help hundreds of thousands of Black migrants.  

We also led the efforts in calling on the administration to designate TPS for Mauritania and organized a social media campaign and a week of action to rally around the urgency of TPS designation for Mauritanians. We published a one-pager on the conditions of Black Mauritanians in Mauritania.

International Migrants Day falls on December 18, right in the midst of the winter holiday season. Could you talk about the difficulties experienced by migrants who cannot be with their families because they are detained, or their families are separated?

There is a lasting psychological trauma attached to any form of family separation and there is an added effect when it is caused by immigration prosecution that will not help with integration or reunion. On top of separation from their families and loved ones, migrants in detention centers are subjected to abuse, violence and racism. We believe that the Black diaspora, and the diasporas of other displaced communities around the world, have the right to freedom of movement, including to migrate, without fear of criminalization or retribution. 

What are three things people can do to support immigrant rights work on this International Migrants Day?

  • Amplifying our marginalized community voices; the Black undocumented immigrant experience and journey to immigration is often forgotten and shadowed in the larger immigration narrative. As UndocuBlack Network works to shift narratives and amplify these voices, we need the commitment of supporters in sharing and spreading our voices with their base and network, especially in the internet era where you can spread messages and capture the attention of the vast mass with a click of the button. So, help us spread our messages, follow us on our socials to support and follow our work.
  • We believe that collective giving is a mighty force to be reckoned with. People can help carry our mission forward by donating. We appreciate the commitment and continued support of our community of supporters as we would not be able to do this work without them. 
  • By showing solidarity and responding to our call to action. The few minutes you take retweeting, signing petitions and calling your representatives can make a significant difference and bring about a tremendous change.

Image Credit: The UndocuBlack Network

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