|Making America whiter, an immigrant at a time|
|Trump policy mixes race, economics, life and death|
|Published Friday, February 2, 2018|
CHARLOTTE – Gilles Bikindou is headed back to the Republic of Congo against his will.
As negotiations for immigration reform carry on in Washington, there lies uncertainty for people like Bikindou as border security and ethnicity are part of the debate over whether America should roll up the welcome mat to most of the world.
Last week, 50 parishioners and clergymen gathered outside the Homeland Security office in Charlotte for a prayer vigil for Bikindou “to pray and protest an injustice.” Bikindou, an immigrant from the Congo, had been living legally in the United States under an order of supervision since 2010. On Jan. 9, during a routine check-in to the Charlotte Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, he was arrested and moved to Stewart Detention Facility in Lumpkin, Georgia, for deportation.
“We are concerned that his stay of removal application was not adequately considered,” said the Rev. Lauren Efird, senior pastor at Green Forest Baptist Church in Cary, where Bikindou has been a member since 2006.
Bikindou came to the United States in 2004 with an education visa after fleeing Congo due to fear of political prosecution after he witnessed state-sponsored violence and murder. After refusing to perjure himself during an internationally-televised trial, funding for his visa was pulled, leading to a federal order of removal.
Bikindou filed for political asylum but was denied by a federal judge. He was given an order of supervision, but his legal representation is now being called into question, Efird said. Bikindou also requires medication for a life-threatening condition that advocates contend he won’t get in detention or the Congo.
“We are concerned, above all, that without adequate medical care, Mr. Bikindou will die either before or after his removal,” Efird said.
The concerns are heightened by unannounced inspections of the Stewart Detention Facility, and four other centers found long waits for medical care and mistreatment of detainees. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General reported in December: “We identified problems that undermine the protection of detainees' rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment."
Bikindou’s story is part of a larger immigration issue: policy contradictions and racial profiling.
On Jan. 11 at a bipartisan meeting of lawmakers and President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss the Temporary Protected Status of immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and Africa, Trump allegedly told lawmakers, “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They're shithole countries,” while suggesting America needs more immigrants from countries such as Norway.
In addition to condemnation from lawmakers and immigration advocates, the NAACP last week sued the federal government to prevent the deportation of Haitian immigrants through TPS revocation.
"I am personally offended and appalled by…comments which are yet another example of President Trump’s racist ideologies,” U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, a Charlotte Democrat, said earlier this month. “My concern now is solely with the millions of people and our allies who will be impacted by this administration's policies that are clearly driven by racism. These prejudiced beliefs are a betrayal of our American values and tantamount to an abdication of his basic responsibility to represent all Americans.”
Trump’s comments are consistent with the recent deportations and arrests since his inauguration; however, it’s contradictory to current policy by his administration. His argument that limiting legal immigration and eliminating illegal entry makes America safer has economic benefits by opening more jobs for native-born workers. With African-American unemployment at record lows – which Trump takes credit for – the president argues his philosophy is bearing fruit.
“The Democrats seem intent on having people and drugs pour into our country from the Southern Border, risking thousands of lives in the process,” Trump tweeted earlier this month. “It is my duty to protect the lives and safety of all Americans. We must build a Great Wall, think Merit and end Lottery & Chain. USA!”
Under the Trump administration, the number of non-criminal interior deportations – meaning non-border removals – has gone from 5,014 to 13,744. The executive order also focused on deporting illegal immigrants who engaged in fraud with a government agency, abused public benefits, subject to final order of removal or “in the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.”
Bikindou did not fall under any of those categories until he received his final order, joining thousands of people of color scheduled for deportation. According to ICE, 5,578 Haitian immigrants were deported compared to Norway’s four in 2017. The top nation for removals was Mexico with 128,765; No. 1 among predominately white countries was Canada with 353.
“They have no interest in making sure if America is safe, but are solely interested in making sure America stays white,” said the Rev. Benjamin Boswell, senior minister of Myers Park Baptist and a speaker at the vigil.
“I certainly believe the racist rhetoric of our current administration has to be having an impact on our government officials,” Efird said. “You can’t spew racist rhetoric all over our country and don’t think it will have an impact on the way our government officials do their jobs.”
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