According to an article on the website of KUT, a public radio station in Austin, Texas, a Nigerian student at the University of Texas is seeking work and sponsorship from potential employers, knowing that she is currently an illegal immigrant. A student of chemical engineering, Oluwatoyosi Shusi (21) will graduate in December, having benefited from receiving protection under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which shields from deportation illegal immigrants who entered the U.S. as children. The Trump administration rescinded the program in September.

Shusi is black, and is thus among the less than 2 percent of DACA immigrants who are black. While her DACA status is supposed to expire in September 2018, she will not be able to renew it. She told KUT, "When they talk about undocumented immigrants, they don't talk about black undocumented immigrants." Currently, 7 percent of the 22 million illegal immigrants in the country are black, while not all are from Africa. Texas is home to the third largest population of African-born immigrants. It also saw the greatest increase in population, 111 percent, from 2000 to 2010.

Shusi’s parents entered the country with student visas that allowed them to work. After her father was laid off during the 2008 slump, Shusi’s parents applied for permanent legal resident status in 2001, but have not yet been advised of their status. Her two brothers, aged 10- and 17-years-old, were born in the U.S. and thus have Social Security numbers. Shusi does not.

Advocating for black illegal immigrants is the Undocublack Network -- an advocacy organization that was formed in Miami last year. According to the group’s website, it seeks for provide “safe spaces” for illegal immigrants as well as mental health services. It advocates extending Temporary Protected Status to immigrants from Haiti, Honduras, and elsewhere. However, it does not have as an ultimate goal the granting of American citizenship to black immigrants. In the WKUT article, Deborah Alemu -- Undocublack’s membership coordinator -- said “A lot of times people ask if citizenship is the goal … and I say 'no.’” She added, “You’ve got black citizens living in the United States who still don’t have full dignity and full rights.”

As for Shusi, in the interview, she said, “America is the only place I know, and I love this country and it just hurts 'cause this country hates me and I don’t know why.” She said, “I’m always going to be limited because of my status and that just sucks.”.

The UndocuBlack Network is a fiscally sponsored project of the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI). BAJI has received funding in previous years from George Soros’ Open Society foundation, as well as the Brooklyn Community Foundation. According to BAJI, there are in excess of 575,000 black illegal immigrants in the United States. In its recent State of Black Immigrants report (pdf), BAJI found that the vast majority of people who benefited from Obama’s DACA program were Mexicans (78 percent of application-approval rates). By comparison, just 3 percent of African immigrants and 2 percent of people of Caribbean descent were eligible for DACA, out of an eligibility pool of 1.2 million, claimed BAJI.



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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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