By Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) steering committee members Rose Berry and Alan Pelaez Lopez.
Black immigrants have been a long-time invisibilized population in the U.S.
The current federal administration’s attack on immigrants from predominantly Black countries has amplified the violence experienced by the Black immigrant population. Examples of this attack include (but are not limited to): the US banning visas for Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone; proposed federal policies that threaten to cap refugee resettlement, 3 of the 8 countries banned from traveling to the US are African: Chad, Libya, and Somalia; the Muslim Ban; the attack on TPS recipients; along with ICE raids across the country. These actions, paired with xenophobic rhetoric from the federal administration contribute to the deadly conditions of all Black immigrants worldwide.
Despite these critical attacks on Black migrants, we are a fast growing population in the U.S. The number of undocumented Black immigrants in the U.S. increased by nearly 50% from 389,000 in 2000 to 602,000 in 2013.
Nearly 1 in 5 Black immigrants live below the poverty line and have the highest unemployment rates amongst all immigrant groups; more than one out of every five non-citizens facing deportation on criminal grounds before the Executive Office of Immigration Review is Black.
As organizing for Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, + (LGBTQIA+) rights intensifies in Africa and the Caribbean, so too will the numbers of us forced to flee. Currently, 38 out of 54 African countries criminalize homosexuality. In Nigeria, LGBTQIA+ communities face a 14 year sentence, while in Uganda, the penalty was initially death.
Black LGBTQIA+ immigrants also migrate from Latin America, the Caribbean, the European Union, and Asia. Once in the U.S., we are detained when we present ourselves at the border seeking asylum and experience further violence.
The fact of the matter is that many Black migrants are not invested in leaving their land. Many Black immigrants are searching for humanitarian relief from slavery, sex-trafficking, gender-based violence, natural disasters and risk of persecution in their own country because they belong to the LGBTQIA+ community.
The Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project (BLMP) aims to build the leadership and power of Black LGBTQIA+ migrant communities worldwide.
Through our work, we hope to accomplish the following:
- Build the leadership and visibility of our community by providing spaces for political education, visioning and skills-building and increasing access to decision-making
- Shift the narrative of migration by centering Black LGBTQIA+ immigrant voices.
- Reduce isolation and strengthen local organizing by building regional networks.
While we lack data on Black LGBTQIA+ immigrants, we know this community experiences high levels of homelessness, unemployment, work discrimination, denial of healthcare and poverty.
This moment is a defining and historical demand for critical interventions. The lives of Black LGBTQIA+ migrants are at stake more than ever. It is for this reason that the BLMP has committed to engage in work for and by the Black LGBTQIA+ community. Our project aims to not only amplify narratives, but change culture while building a base of transnational Black LGBTQIA+ migrant leadership.