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The “Color” of Immigration Policy Reform

By Dr. Ron Daniels From Institute of the Black World 21st Century — Research, Policy and Advocacy

Vantage Point Articles and Essays

It is critically important that all people of conscience and goodwill continue to condemn the horrifying, uncivilized policy of separating children from parents from Mexico and Central America entering this country seeking asylum or a better life for their families. While some might debate the “legality” of people crossing the border without documents, absolutely nothing justifies treating human beings inhumanely. Therefore, African Americans and people of African descent must maintain a principled position of fighting against family separation and for humane treatment of all persons entering this country for whatever reason.

Justice demands that there also be a focus on the “color” of immigration policy reform. African Americans and people of African descent are increasingly taking note that there is virtually no attention paid to the fact that Haitians seeking entry into the U.S. are often sent to detention centers where they languish for months. And, when DACA is front and center in the policy debate between Trump and Congress, the face of the “Dreamers” is seen as Brown (Latino) not Black (people of African descent). This is despite the fact that there are untold thousands of Black Dreamers from Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America in this country. The plight/condition of Black immigrants deserves attention, and it is fair to ask our allies to deliberately and intentionally make this point. To do otherwise risks breeding hostility and resentment among people of color nationalities/ethnicities who should be united in their quest for just immigration policy reform.

Finally, lost in the essential struggle to prevent separation of families is the fact that every major piece of legislation advanced by Trump and the Republicans to address the plight of the Dreamers and the need for comprehensive immigration reform eliminates the “Visa Lottery” Program — better known to African American advocates as the “Diversity Visa Program.” For years this Program has been the primary gateway for immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, people of African descent/ Black people, to gain entry to this country. Though the quotas have been relatively small, to sacrifice this Program is to eliminate a crucial pathway to entry and citizenship for Black immigrants.

It is not in the political and economic interest of African Americans to shut off this pathway. On the contrary it is in the best interest of African Americans that this pathway be open so that large numbers of Continental Africans and people of African descent from the Caribbean, Central and South America can become part of diverse and growing Black communities in the U.S. Immigrants of African descent are potentially new warriors in the struggle for righteous Black empowerment in the U.S. and the Pan African World. Therefore, the New York based Pan African Unity Dialogue has persistently advocated for a dramatic expansion of the Diversity Visa Program as a cornerstone of its demand for non-discriminatory, just, equitable and inclusive immigration reform, consistent with the legitimate interests and aspirations of people of African descent in this country! The “Color” of Immigration Policy Reform must include Black people!

Immigration Reform Part 2: The Parasitical System of Development/Underdevelopment

Much of the immigration reform debate is understandably focused on the separation of children from their parents, the plight of the “Dreamers,” the “Diversity Visa Program,” a “Guest Worker Program” to feed the agricultural sector’s appetite for cheap labor and border protection to block the “hordes” of undocumented “suspects” from illegally entering this country. While these are important issues for debate and resolution, from my vantage point, virtually no attention is being devoted to the big picture, the root causes of the often dangerous and desperate journey to the borders of U.S. by human beings from Mexico, Central and South America and regions of the Caribbean: The long history of ruthless exploitation of these regions by U.S. Corporations at the behest of or in complicity with the U.S. Government.

In his classic work How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney documents the myriad ways that the nations of Europe benefitted enormously from the systematic trafficking of enslaved Africans. Whole cities and towns blossomed in Europe as a consequence of the trafficking in Black bodies. Major corporations like Lloyds of London and Barclays Bank were nourished by this parasitical enterprise. Rodney’s seminal point is that while Europe developed, the ravishes of the slave trade wreaked havoc on the economies of kingdoms and nations in Africa. European nations became global economic and political powers; Africa was left weakened, underdeveloped and vulnerable to colonization and further exploitation.

The same can be said for the U.S. relationship with the nations in Central and South America and parts of the Caribbean. Under variations of the “Monroe Doctrine” Central and South America and the Caribbean were declared to be essentially the domain of the United States. The human and material resources of these regions were viewed as assets to be exploited to benefit the pecuniary interests of corporations and financial institutions in this country. The Caribbean was seen as America’s “private lake” where nations were compelled to bow to U.S. corporate interests, enforced by “Gun Boat Diplomacy.” Nations in Central and South America were reduced to “Banana Republics,” forcibly subdued and subservient to the likes of the United Fruit Company. The human and material resources of these regions were systematically exploited to develop the American “empire.” The “client states” of the region were left impoverished, underdeveloped and largely dependent on the largess of “Big Brother” to the North. The wealth and development of the U.S. was in no small measure further enriched, expanded and accelerated due to its parasitical relationship with the peoples and nations of Central and South America and the Caribbean; a legacy which continues to plague these regions today.

Now the proverbial “chickens have come home to roost” as the sons and daughters of those who have been dispossessed, disadvantaged and disinherited by generations of chronic underdevelopment are at the gates, the border, the “wall” of the architect, the perpetrator, the nation that has grown fat off the exploitation of their homelands. One might say, they are coming to reclaim some of that which is rightfully theirs! This is the big picture which progressives must incorporate into our analysis as a transformative agenda for immigration policy reform is formulated.

The principles of “reparative justice” demand that the U.S. invest massive resources in a “Marshall Plan” type Initiative to strengthen and develop the economies of underdeveloped nations in Central and South America and the Caribbean. No policy which does not include provisions to enable the nations of the regions to develop thriving, people-based economies will ultimately succeed in stemming the tide of the disinherited, rightfully hammering at and penetrating the “walls” of the parasites who pillaged their homelands. It goes without saying that what applies to this hemisphere also applies to the former slave trafficking, colonial and neo-colonial nations of Europe. They too cannot escape their sins. “…The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice!”

Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer Emeritus, York College City University of New York. His articles and essays appear on the IBW website and His weekly radio show, Vantage Point can be heard Mondays 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM on WBAI, 99.5 FM, Pacifica in New York, streaming live via



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