As Supreme Court DACA Decision Looms Near, Black Immigrants Add To Black Lives Matter Message

Black DACA recipient Joella Roberts speaks about undocumented black fears at the Black Lives Matter D.C. protests, June 13, 2020. (Photo/Athiyah Azeem)

“Imagine being pulled over because I’m black,” Joella Roberts said as she addressed protesters with a loudspeaker. “And it’s a double whammy because I’m undocumented.”

Roberts led hundreds of Black Lives Matter protesters on a march down Washington D.C. Saturday, briefly stopping in front of the Trump International Hotel for a round of speeches. She is a 22-year-old undocumented black immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago, and received Deffered Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2015.

The Obama-era program is meant to shield and provide work permits to undocumented immigrants, who entered the United States as children. It has been at risk since 2017 when President Trump called to end it. Three courts blocked the decision on grounds that Trump’s administration did not file adequate paperwork.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide on Department of Homeland Security v. University of California and the two other related cases in the next few weeks–Monday at the earliest. The higher court does not often weigh in on paperwork, but the decision could result in the deportation of 700,000 DACA recipients.

The decision could go several ways–the court may side with the three lower courts, and the administration will have to file the appropriate paperwork to end DACA. It could rule the paperwork is valid, ending DACA. Or, it could altogether deem ending DACA unlawful. Oral arguments on November 2019 indicate the third outcome is unlikely.

Black DACA recipient Joella Roberts speaks about undocumented black fears at the Black Lives Matter D.C. protests, June 13, 2020. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

“I could be deported. I could lose it all,” said Roberts, who said she is the sole income and provider of her family. Facing the risk of both police brutality and possible deportation, Roberts decided to bring her issues to light at the Black Lives Matter D.C. protest.

“This is the plight of black immigrants in this country,” she spoke to the crowd. “Amadou Diallo, say his name!”

Amadou Diallo, a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea, in West Africa. Four white police officers shot 41 bullets at him, 19 of which hit. He was unarmed.

Amadou Diallo was a 23-year-old Guinean and West African immigrant who was shot and killed by four New York Police Department officers on February 4, 1999. Diallo was unarmed, and struck with 19 bullets outside his apartment.

“He is one of hundreds, maybe thousands of black immigrants without hashtags,” said Roberts.

Bella Hounakey tells why she believes police reform needs to go beyond defunding the police, near Lafayette Plaza, June 9, 2020. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

To Bella Hounakey, a black immigrant from Togo, the fight for police reform has to go beyond marching. She said, from experience, that exercising democracy is the only way forward.

“I’m from a country where police are not held accountable for their actions,” said Hounakey to a crowd of protestors Tuesday. Togo’s police force has a reputation of mass corruption and human rights abuses, from excessive force to torture, and harsh prison conditions, according to an Amnesty report.

“So I don’t believe in defunding the police,” she said. “We have to dismantle the infrastructure.”

To Hounakey, there needs to be total and complete reform on how America is policed, without jeopardizing the chance for immigrant victims of crime to receive justice and a place in the U.S. She believes the message of defunding the police needs to be more comprehensive.

“I was trafficked,” Hounakey later told The Immigrant’s Bay. “And the [FBI] rescued me.” Trafficked from Togo to Michigan at 12-years-old, Hounakey was rescued in an FBI bust and granted a T Visa. She just received citizenship in January and was later appointed to the United States Advisory Council on Human Trafficking.

“We have to vote,” she said. “We have to change every single law, from every single department, from state to federal.”


Immigrants Show Their Support at the Black Lives Matter Protest in D.C.

Javaneh Pourkarim speaks out against racism in immigrant communities toward black people, at the Black Lives Matter Protest in D.C., June 4, 2020. An Iranian American and attorney, Pourkarim is organizing education material to teach older immigrants about black communities. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

As an impromptu speaker’s corner emerged at Lafayette Park during the Black Lives Matter protest Thursday, an unlikely person took to the megaphone. 

“Racism in immigrant communities is very rampant,” announced Javaneh Pourkarim, an Iranian American immigrant. Protesters cheered in agreement–one black woman yelled “thank you” in response.

“Over the past few days, I’ve seen a lot of concerns for–I hate these words but, for looting, and rioting from my Iranian American community.” Pourkarim later told The Immigrant’s Bay. “It seems like they have no understanding of the human suffering behind these protests.”

Systemic racism against the African American community by immigrant Americans is a developing concept within intersectional sociological thought. Arab American Dr. Su’ad Abdul Khabeer discussed on NPR Chicago how respectability politics cause nonblack immigrants to assimilate with White Americans, and reject the black community. By dissociating with the black community, they were more “respectable” to white people. 

Pourkarim is an attorney for the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau. She and other Iranian American lawyers are organizing an education series to teach the history of the black community in America to other, older immigrant Americans.

“It is incumbent on us, the young immigrants,” she announced to the crowd, “to make sure that our communities understand the problems with systemic racism, with keeping the black community marginalized, and start educating our children at home.”

“Immigrants for blacks!” she cheered, and the crowd cheered right back.

Zach and his father, Iqbal Sayyid march at the Black Lives Matter protest in Washington D.C., June 4, 2020. They were actually taking a day trip to the White Hose–but decided to march with other protestors. As a Pakistani immigrant, Iqbal finds it important for his son to see displays of freedom of speech. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

Iqbal and Zach Sayyid were on a father-son day trip.

“We were planning to go to the White House, until we saw the march,” said Zach Sayyid, as he idled on his bicycle. 

“Do you want to march?” Iqbal, his father, asked. Zach nodded his head and started cycling along the crowd, with Iqbal not far behind.

“This is good, he needs to learn,” said Iqbal, pointing at his son. “In this country, you can talk about justice, you can talk about peace and you can do it openly. You can do it right in front of the President’s house.”

The Sayyids are from Pakistan, a country infamous for using police force to curb political dissent. A 2019 review by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental organization, detailed how enforced disappearances of the politically opposed are prevalent in several regions of the country.

“Unfortunately, that’s what the President [Trump] wants to turn this [U.S.] into,” said Iqbal. “We want to make sure this doesn’t happen.”

Palestinian American Christian Tabash speaks out against police brutality against black people in America, Black Lives Matter protest in D.C., June 4, 2020. He condemns how U.S. police utilize tactics taught by Israeli forces, who similarly employ such brutality in Palestinian-occupied territories. (Video/Athiyah Azeem)

“Folks, listen up,” said Christian Tabash, as he addressed hundreds of protestors on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Tabash is Palestinian American, son of a refugee from Israel.

“The deadly exchange, is where U.S. FBI, U.S. military, U.S. cops…go to Israel, they go get trained in Israel, and they come back here, and use those…inhumane racist discriminatory to brutalize black folks–and we say it’s enough!”

The knee-on-neck tactic employed by George Floyd’s murder, Derek Chauvain has been recognized as a staple method used by Israeli defense forces against Palestinian occupied territories. Minneapolis Police officers have also been trained by Israeli officers, notably in a 2012 Israeli-American security conference, held jointly by the FBI.

“I’m hurt for my Palestinian family, for my black family,” Tabash later told The Immigrant’s Bay. To Tabash, the fight against racism against black people in America is a united effort, across race and citizenship status.

“This is a collective project. We all need to use our voices, we need to politically mobilize, we can organize ourselves in communities and stay true to truth and justice.”

The Immigrant’s Bay will be live tweeting (@ImsBay) Black Lives Matter-immigrant news at BLM protests in Maryland and D.C. ImsBay founder Athiyah Azeem (AthiyahTA) will be live tweeting general Black Lives Matter news.