Today asylum seekers, advocates, and allies rallied on the steps of San Francisco City Hall demanding an end to Title 42 expulsions and other policies that harm Black people seeking safety in the United States. The groups gathered as part of a National Day of Protest in defense of Black immigrants called by the Haitian Bridge Alliance, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and UndocuBlack Network.
Joined by Supervisor Hillary Ronen, community leaders and impacted people shed light on the destructive impact of the federal government’s asylum policies and called for immediate action by the Biden administration to protect the lives of Black asylum seekers.
“Black asylum seekers do not leave their homes and families behind because they want to. We have crossed the dangerous jungle in Panama, faced cartels, been harassed by police, and taken the worst jobs, because we don’t have a choice,” said Mohamed, an Ethiopian asylum seeker. “We are human beings who need safety and protection. But when we came to the U.S.-Mexico border, the border was closed in our faces. We were told because of the pandemic we couldn’t come in. After months in Tijuana, I was finally able to get humanitarian parole and enter the United States, which is very rare. In the Bay Area, for the first time in my life, I feel safe.”
“The treatment of immigrants by the Trump administration was brutal,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “But despite the change in Washington, we are still witnessing a humanitarian tragedy at our border. Enough with racism and xenophobia! San Francisco welcomes people fleeing violence and natural disasters. We demand that President Biden lift all Title 42 restrictions and allow migrants seeking asylum to safely enter the country.”
“Today we call on the Biden administration to stop playing politics with the lives of Haitians and other Black refugees, and immediately end inhumane policies like Title 42 that expose migrants to danger, torture, and even death,” said Neela Chakravartula, Managing Attorney at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) and member of the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign. “Let me be clear: It is 100% legal to seek asylum. Using the Title 42 policy to violate that right is unlawful, cruel, and immoral. If the Biden administration truly values Black lives, it must immediately end Title 42 and stop deadly expulsion flights to Haiti.”
“In three weeks, under Title 42, President Biden has treated Haitians like criminals. He has sent 72 flights back to Haiti,” said Ustadi Kadiri of Haiti Action Committee. “He’s got Trump beat. We want no detention, no deportation, no Title 42.”
“Weaponizing Title 42 to deny asylum seekers entry was never about public health. It is a racist immigration policy that is doing nothing to mitigate the pandemic,” said Dr. J. Raul Gutierrez, co-director of pediatrics at the UCSF Health and Human Rights Initiative. “What we are doing is putting children in harm’s way, forcing the separation of families, and causing trauma that will affect children’s development for a lifetime. The administration should instead be using our public health experts to safely greet and welcome asylum seekers.”
“As a physician who has been working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic, I can tell you with certainty: The way to curb this pandemic is not by implementing discriminating policy that tears families apart and robs them of their human right to seek asylum,” said Dr. Suzanne Barakat, Executive Director of the UCSF Health and Human Rights Initiative. “At UCSF’s Health and Human Rights Initiative we stand ready to serve any of our Haitian community members seeking asylum by providing a forensic medical evaluation pro bono, with the hopes of welcoming all those to our shores seeking safety with the dignity, love, and support they deserve.”
“At this critical moment when the Biden administration is continuing the anti-Black border enforcement policies of the past administration, BAJI is calling on Biden to immediately grant humanitarian parole to all Black asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border,” said Aron B. Oqubamichael, Community Educator at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). “BAJI is also calling on the administration to revoke Title 42 and stop expelling and deporting Haitian and other Black asylum seekers.”
“We gathered today to uplift the voices of Black immigrants and advocates and to show the country that the Bay Area is ready to welcome with dignity all Black asylum seekers,” said Callie Cowdery, Staff Attorney at African Advocacy Network. “Our communities demand an end to Title 42 and the countless other injustices carried out against Black asylum seekers by the United States government.”
For more information about the Title 42 policy, see the #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign’s background memo.
Click here to watch a recording of today’s rally.