UndocuBlack Network on Passage of DREAM and Promise ACT in the House

June 5th, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org

Washington, DC -  The US House of Representatives has finally passed H.R.6, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019,  one of the most critical immigration bills in recent times.

The legislation, which is not law, would provide a path to legalization for DREAM-eligible immigrants, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders and is a reflection of the growing power of our movement in demanding protection for all thirteen TPS countries and DED for Liberia. The bill also calls for the return of previously deported people who meet the aforementioned criteria.

The 237-187 vote was possible because of organizing by impacted immigrants, immigrant rights’ advocates and our allies. This bill by itself will not be enough to protect undocumented immigrants. Instead, it is the beginning of a long journey that would give 2.5 million immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

UndocuBlack is glad that attempts by the Republicans to introduce an anti-immigrant amendment to further criminalize our communities was rejected during the House floor debate.

Currently, this bill, particularly for the Dream eligible section of the bill, allows eligibility for people with vacated convictions and marijuana possession. The bill also returns something lost long ago in immigration bills: the right to an attorney in certain cases of an applicant's denial. Additionally, there is a statute of limitations on some offenses. However, we are dismayed that the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will have some discretion to deny an application based on an applicant's history (up to five years).

While we now have members of Congress on record detailing the racism immigrants face, racially biased gang databases and profiling by law enforcement; we know that our collective work decriminalizing communities continues. Thanks to our advocacy and that of other criminal and immigration justice advocates H.R. 6 prohibits gang databases from being independently used as evidence against an applicant.

We are grateful for all who made last night's vote possible. We challenge the Senate to do what is right and pass this important legislation. All undocumented communities including immigrant youth, TPS and DED holders must have stability and we welcome the day that legislation honoring our dignity  and granting a path to citizenship finally becomes law.

Jonathan Jayes-Green, UndocuBlack Network’s Director:

A year ago, when we were floating the idea of merging DREAM legislation with TPS and DED, we were told it was impossible. We fought hard, organized our own community, our allies and the broader public and made the impossible possible. While we are celebrating today the victory for some of our community members, we are still building towards the day when legislation relating to our community does not exclude people based on juvenile adjudications or even support the usage of gang databases. That day is possible, it’s coming and we’re committed to getting there.

Patrice Lawrence, UndocuBlack Network’s National Policy and Advocacy Director

Looking back at this journey to the passage of this bill is truly a journey of making the impossible possible. This administration has repeatedly attempted to end programs that have provided protections for our communities, has ramped up detentions and deportations attacking us in every way possible. Last night was an example of us collectively saying: that’s enough. The passage of the Dream and Promise Act came true with the fierce dedication and determination of all our immigrant youth, TPS, DED communities and our allies. I am proud to help usher in this win. The fight does not end here.

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Historic Dream and Promise Act Moves Forward in the House

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org

Historic Dream and Promise Act Moves Forward in the House

Washington, DC - The historic Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) successfully passed the House Judiciary Committee last night after a day-long debate. The bill now moves to the Rules Committee and is expected to be voted on by the entire House of Representatives in early June.

The legislation, which provides a path to legalization for undocumented young people, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) holders, is a reflection of the growing power of our movement in demanding protection for all thirteen TPS countries and DED for Liberia. The bill offers due process for immigrants and ensures that vacated convictions and marijuana possession do not preclude people from eligibility.

The House of Representatives should pass the Dream and Promise Act, take up important measures like Dignity for Detained Immigrants and undo the disastrous 1996 immigration laws that continue to harm our communities.

Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Founder and Director, UndocuBlack Network:

While the bill is not perfect, I am proud of the work we’ve done fighting back against the criminalization of our communities in both the current bill and especially in the proposed amendments. Every amendment that was offered yesterday seeking to exclude people and to feed xenophobic and racist fears about immigrants was denied - all 11 of them! Additionally, attempts to remove Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone from the list of TPS countries eligible for protections were defeated.

Patrice Lawrence, Policy and Advocacy Director, UndocuBlack Network:

Last night’s passage of the Dream and Promise Act out of committee is the result of a hard-fought battle won because of the might of our people, our members and our allies. The current Dream and Promise Act is the first time we have a landmark immigration bill in Congress that doesn’t exclude people based on marijuana possession, civil disobedience and minor traffic offenses. While the bill is not everything we asked for and pushed for, we are celebrating the historic wins we achieved. We remain watchful through this process and look forward to getting this bill passed through the House in early June.

Gabrielle Jackson, Mental Wellness Director, UndocuBlack Network:

It was amazing watching the Dream and Promise Act pass the House Judiciary Committee knowing it is a momentous step and a testament to the hard work and commitment of the people who pushed for this to happen! There are still some concerns about the bill as it stands. We are still concerned about the potential exclusion of people who have been placed in secure residential treatment facilities because that could exclude vulnerable Black and Brown youth who are often committed for long term mental health treatment and rehabilitation.

Update on the Liberian DED lawsuit

March 28th, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org, assefash@africans.us

UndocuBlack’s statement about hearing on preliminary injunction and other updates

Washington, DC - This afternoon an expedited hearing for a preliminary injunction on the case African Communities Together v. Trump was heard by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman. The lawsuit challenges the Trump Administration’s termination of Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) for Liberians. DED is a humanitarian immigration program closely related to Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which DED beneficiaries, many of whom have resided in the U.S. for over 20 years, previously held.


However, in response to a memorandum from the White House earlier today extending the wind-down period for Liberian DED for an additional 12 months and advancing the termination date to March 31, 2020, the plaintiffs withdrew the motion for a preliminary injunction during today’s hearing and the lawsuit will continue in its normal course.  

The lawsuit is brought by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston, and Dechert LLP  on behalf of fifteen Liberian immigrants and their family members with DED status, African Communities Together (ACT) and the UndocuBlack Network and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on March 8, 2019. It challenges President Trump’s March 27, 2018 decision to end DED for Liberians.

Ten attorneys general from California, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, led by Attorney General Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts, also filed an amicus brief on March 25, 2019 in support of the suit.


The plaintiffs welcomed the announcement, which will provide temporary relief to as many as 4,000 Liberian DED holders who faced the threat of imminent loss of legal status and deportation. However, they affirmed their commitment to carrying on the legal challenge to termination of DED and advocating for Congress to grant permanent status to DED holders, TPS recipients and DREAM-eligible immigrants.


“Our suspicions and doubts about why the Trump administration ended DED last year have not shifted. The president has repeatedly expressed disgust, contempt and outright prejudice against all immigrants and Black immigrants particularly.  Therefore, we will carry on with this suit and are determined to uncover what and how decisions were made to upend the lives of thousands of Liberians across the country.” Patrice Lawrence, Policy and Advocacy Director, UndocuBlack Network

“Despite the welcome news of the extension, there are still serious questions that need to be answered about why the White House terminated the program when and how they did, especially considering some of the statements in their own memo extending the deadline. And we're mindful that this is only a one-year extension- DED is still terminated. It took the concerted pressure from this lawsuit, members of Congress, and a wide range of community advocates to secure this win. We need to keep that pressure up.” Amaha Kassa, Executive Director, African Communities Together.

“While we are elated to see the extension of DED for another year; we will continue this fight through every avenue until Liberians are safe. We will see this lawsuit through the end and we will simultaneously fight in Congress to pass a bill, continue to uplift the voices of DED holders in the media and continue to build power on the streets. We are grateful to everyone who joined our call to action, amplified our demands, supported our leadership and believed in our vision.” Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Founder and Director, UndocuBlack Network

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UndocuBlack Network Celebrates Liberian DED win!

March 28th, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org

Washington, DC - After living in fear of losing their families, homes, and communities, Liberians with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) can breathe again today. The presidential decree ending their status on March 31, 2019 has been extended for one year to March 31, 2020. This gives Congress time to act, and Congress must act now.

Liberian DED holders have been at the center of this fight. For years, they have advocated for themselves and their families, they have bravely shared their personal stories, filed a lawsuit to protect themselves and continue to build power with each other.

Yatta Kiazolu who most recently testified at the Senate Judiciary hearing welcomes the news, “This is a very necessary win for our community. It was the right thing to do. We are still in the fight for a permanent solution because we still have lives after March 31st, 2020. We know when we fight we win! We are proud of our community and advocates for pushing for this extension.”

Patrice Lawrence, National Policy and Advocacy Director, UndocuBlack Network “The UndocuBlack Network has arduously fought for the integrity, dignity and humanity of all undocumented Black people.  This fight with our Liberian community has been long, hard and frustrating. Our work is personal and to that end we are very grateful for the support that our Liberian communities have gotten from our partners and allies.  This win, though incremental, minute and still a termination of status, must be recognized as the monumental power of the people. The president overturned his own decision, we have more might than we can even begin to imagine. I am proud to lead this fight with you all.”

Jonathan Jayes-Green, Co-Founder and Director, UndocuBlack Network

“We are elated to see the extension of DED for another year as we see it as a demonstration of the power we’ve built collectively. We have been fighting for this on every front: in Congress, in the media, in the courts and on the streets. And we are proud to see this win. We are also grateful to everyone who joined our call to action, amplified our demands, supported our leadership and believed in our vision. And we know that this is not the end. We need Congress to act now and pass permanent protections for DED holders and the rest of our community!”

Passing legislation is a first and essential step toward fixing our broken immigration system. Bills already introduced in the House (HR 6 — the Dream and Promise Act) and in the Senate (the Dream Act and the Secure Act) would give a path to permanent residence and citizenship to Liberians with DED, to immigrants with Temporary Protected Status, and to undocumented young people.

UndocuBlack continues to fight and advocate for all undocumented Black immigrants.

As Senate reintroduces bills: Dream Act and SECURE Act; UndocuBlack says, protect Dream eligible, TPS and DED immigrants without political games

March 26th, 2018

For Immediate Release

Contact: nekessa@undocublack.org


PROTECT DREAM ELIGIBLE, TPS AND DED IMMIGRANTS


Washington, DC- UndocuBlack Network acknowledges the introduction of the Dream Act of 2019  by Senators Dick Durbin and Lindsey Graham and the SECURE Act of 2019 in the Senate by Senators Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin.


Our communities are living in limbo and in crisis. We need Congress to act with expediency and offer protection to those most vulnerable in our communities. Many Black immigrants live in mixed-status families that are: Dream eligible, TPS and DED holders. These bills would offer our communities the security they need to thrive and prosper.


DACA, TPS and DED have offered reprieve from deportation and detention for so many in our community, only for them to go back into living in fear when this administration began its attack on the programs. Over the last three years, resources have been poured into attacking our communities.


Re-introducing these bills without harmful provisions is a statement against the myth that America needs a wall on the southern border. In five days, up to 4,000 Liberians will lose their DED protections. This is not a time for politics.


We look toward Dream-eligible, TPS and DED immigrants being safe from the snares of Immigrations Customs and Enforcement (ICE). We look forward to the expedited processing of work permits for DACA, TPS and DED holders. We look forward to an expansive Dream and Secure Act offering protection to more undocumented immigrants.

UndocuBlack continues to fight and advocate for all undocumented Black immigrants.

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UndocuBlack Network: The Dream and Promise Act will give protection to Dream-eligible, DED, and TPS immigrants

March 12th, 2019

For Immediate Release

Contact: Nekessa Opoti | nekessa@undocublack.org | (612) 460-0656

Important legislation to restore and expand immigration protections removed by Trump Administration

Washington, DC - This evening, the House under the leadership of Majority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, introduced the Dream and Promise Act with Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Nydia Velazquez and Yvette D. Clarke, which expands the original DREAM Act, the American Promise Act, and the ASPIRE-TPS Act, from the 115th Congress.  This new legislation called the American Promise Act of 2019 has been entered into the 116th Congress with 203 original co-sponsors.

The UndocuBlack Network welcomes the Dream and Promise Act as a step toward restoring and expanding protection toward Dream-eligible immigrants as well as TPS and DED holders.

Below is the official statement from the UndocuBlack Network:

“This bill is a direct response to the attacks that our communities have been facing from the Trump administration, with the removals of protections for Dream eligible immigrants, TPS holders from 13 countries and Liberian holders of Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).  Make no mistake, this bill is just the beginning of what is owed to immigrant communities.  

In less than 20 days, DED for Liberians expires. We are co-plaintiffs with 15 Liberians suing the Trump administration for its racist termination of the humanitarian program, DED,  which has existed for over twenty years.

Our families and communities are in a constant panic, in fear that they will be targeted- detained and deported. It is within this context that we fight every day for all of us, and the introduction of the Dream and Promise Act is an extension of the legislative solution.

DACA, DED and TPS holders have been protected from deportation for years, and now many have had these protections stripped. We condemn this administration’s removal of protections, work permits and the destabilizing of our communities.  As such, we look forward to the expedient passage of this bill through the House without any added enforcement or poison pills that would further criminalize our communities.


There is a pro-immigrant momentum growing throughout this country and we are hopeful that the clean passage of this bill will prove it.


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LIBERIANS ON DED SUE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

Families, Community Groups, and Civil Rights Organizations File Lawsuit to Protect Life-Saving Immigration Program

For Immediate Release
PRESS INQUIRIES: nekessa@undocublack.org

March 8, 2019

BOSTON, MA – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Lawyers for Civil Rights jointly filed a lawsuit today challenging President Donald Trump’s termination of humanitarian protection and relief for immigrants from Liberia. The lawsuit, the first of its kind in the country, was filed on behalf of African Communities Together (ACT), the UndocuBlack Network, and fifteen affected individuals, including Liberians raising U.S. citizen children. The complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The lawsuit challenges President Trump’s March 27, 2018 decision to terminate Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED), a life-saving immigration program, marshalling evidence of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and/or national origin in violation of the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) is a humanitarian program that protects approximately 4,000 Liberian immigrants in the United States. Over the past two decades, DED was renewed under both Republican and Democrat administrations because of environmental disasters and armed conflict in Liberia.

President Trump’s decision to terminate DED marked an abrupt departure from the practice established by previous administrations. Under DED, Liberians have been able to to live, work, and raise U.S. citizen children.

“The Trump administration’s decision to terminate Deferred Enforced Departure for Liberian immigrants was the direct result of intentional discrimination directed at the Liberian community, runs contrary to evidence, and violates the constitution. This lawsuit seeks to combat the discriminatory and xenophobic immigration policies driven by the Trump administration in order to keep Deferred Enforced Departure recipients and their families together,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “We are turning to the courts to ensure stability for Liberians all across our country who have contributed positively to their communities and our economy, many for over thirty years.”

“This is the latest discriminatory attack from the Trump Administration on longstanding immigration programs. First, they came for DACA recipients brought to this country as children. Then, they came for immigrants of color protected under TPS. Now, they come for Liberians. We will not stand idly by as immigrants of color are threatened with detention and deportation. We will not allow the Trump Administration to trample on our dignity and our constitutional rights. We will resist all forms of discrimination, and we will hold the Trump Administration accountable for attacking Liberian families,” said Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, the Executive Director of Lawyers for Civil Rights.

“At the UndocuBlack Network, we know how it feels to be discriminated against, underestimated even when justice is on our side,” said Patrice S. Lawrence National Policy & Advocacy Director of the UndocuBlack Network. “Consequently, we know how to fight back and win. President Trump set the termination date of the DED program for Liberians for March 31, 2019, negatively affecting up to 4,000 people we know and love. This means we now have days to ensure the stability of Liberians who have been in the country for almost 30 years. We join this lawsuit to challenge the discriminatory intentions of the Trump Administration, and to ensure that our Liberian communities can maintain the ability to thrive.”

"We are suing on behalf of our Liberian DED holder members who have been in this country for decades. They have renewed their status time and time again, been vetted time and time again, and have built their lives here in the United States," said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together.

As it currently stands, DED is set to expire on March 31, 2019. The rescission of this program will result in the separation of families and harm thousands of Liberians across the country.

Read the full complaint here.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights.

About Lawyers for Civil Rights:

Founded in 1968, Lawyers for Civil Rights (LCR) fosters equal opportunity and fights discrimination on behalf of people of color and immigrants. The organization engages in creative and courageous legal action, education, and advocacy in collaboration with law firms and community partners. LCR filed the first lawsuits in the country against the Trump Administration to protect sanctuary cities; to save TPS on behalf of Central American immigrants; and to block immigration arrests in courthouses. For more information, visit www.lawyersforcivilrights.org.



DED holder Yatta Kiazolu Testifies at House Judiciary Committee “I am here for all the working class immigrants on DED, TPS, and are also DREAM eligible.”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 6th, 2019

For press inquiries: Nekessa Opoti nekessa@undocublack.org | (612) 460-0656

Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Collins, and members of this committee  thank you for this opportunity.

My name is Yatta Kiazolu, I am 28 years old and I am a beneficiary of Deferred Enforced Departure also known as DED. In addition, I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at UCLA with plans to graduate by Fall 2019. After 22 years in the U.S., however, 25 days from now Liberian DED will end and my entire life will be interrupted. I have only visited Liberia once as a toddler and I have never lived in the country.

I am here today to appeal to Congress to create a permanent solution on behalf of myself and the thousands of Liberians who have rebuilt their lives here in the United States.

I was born Botswana to Liberian national parents and arrived in the U.S. at 6 years old in 1997.  My father worked as a professor at the University of Botswana for the United Nations, while my mother was a stay-at-home parent and later worked as a teacher at a local school. We had no other family in Botswana.
   
When my parents made an attempt to move back to Liberia after the first civil war,  in fear of my safety, my mother sent me to live in Georgia with my grandmother, while they assessed the situation. Living with my grandmother in the States provided me security and stability I otherwise would not have known because the fragile political climate soon descended into a second civil war. My mother joined me soon after. In fact, one of my fondest memories at this age was being in a Little League in Decatur, GA where my cousins and I made up almost the entire team.

I have been a recipient of both TPS and DED. If DACA had not been rescinded it is possible that I would have been a Dreamer, as well. The protection of these relief programs allowed me to maintain a stable and healthy life, despite living deadline to deadline.The ability to attend college and graduate from Delaware State University with honors helped me discover my passion for history and higher education. In undergrad, I was an active member of my campus community leading student organizations, joined the public service sorority Delta Sigma Theta, and even completed internships at congressional local offices.

DED made it possible for me to leave the U.S. in 2012, through Advanced Parole, for the first time since my arrival, to travel to South Africa. I participated in the UC Office of the President-HBCU Initiative.  I was thrilled to be able to travel freely with my classmates for once. This program exposed me to graduate education and is the reason I decided to pursue my doctorate in history at UCLA. On campus, I have been a strong advocate of student support, led numerous diversity and inclusion initiatives, and worked as a teaching assistant for undergraduate courses. In my local community, I work to support student access to higher education through tutoring and working as an adjunct instructor.

Nothing I have accomplished thus far would be possible without the unwavering support of my family, who are here with me today. I am here because of the love and labor of my mother, grandmother, and aunties who, when I first arrived, were all working class Black immigrant women. They worked jobs that required them to stand on their feet for sometimes over 10 hours a day in order to protect me and offer me space to imagine, dream, and explore my world as a child should.  Their resilience, hope, and lessons about goodwill inspire my graduate research about histories of Black women’s political activism . My grandmother used to say “When you do good, you don’t do it for yourself, you do it for God.”[pause] And with that philosophy as my personal mantra, though the majority of my family are now permanent residents and U.S. citizens, I am here for all the working class immigrants on DED, TPS, and are also DREAM eligible. I am here for all young people like myself who have anxiety about their futures.

If Congress allows DED to end in 25 days, I do not know what will happen to me. My mother loses sleep at night worrying about me. I want to graduate this year and begin my career in higher education. I am incredibly passionate about teaching history, public history programming, and student mentorship. Through various roles in the classroom over the last five years, I have been invested in the academic and personal achievement of over 200 students, especially those who are historically underrepresented. As a product of dedicated advocates, I want to be able to give back, especially to students who have limited access to higher education. To this end, it is my greatest appeal that Congress create a permanent path to citizenship for DED and similar programs like DACA and TPS.

Thank you for your time,

Yatta Kiazolu