Citing widespread human rights abuses, groups urge deportation relief for Mauritanian immigrantsJuly 15, 2022
“Considering the extreme nature of the entwined human rights and humanitarian crises in Mauritania, an immediate designation of either TPS or DED is warranted and necessary to protect vulnerable Mauritanians in the United States and to advance U.S. foreign policy objectives,” 87 local, state, and national groups tell President Biden and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. They note that while the nation in 2017 became the last to criminalize slavery, an estimated 90,000 people still remain enslaved.
“As the practice of slavery has become more covert, the United Nations estimates that the number of people enslaved in Mauritania is much higher, with up to 680,000 out of a total population of 3.4 million,” the groups continue. “Given these numbers, Mauritania’s population has one of the highest percentages per capita of enslaved populations in the world.” The continued practice of slavery, as well as politically motivated arrests and detention, make Mauritania a textbook case for TPS designation, which is applied in circumstances when affected people are unable to return to their home countries due to natural disasters or civil unrest.
Like in the case of Cameroonian asylum-seekers, Mauritanian migrants deported from America also “often face additional unique abuses due to their affiliation with the United States,” groups said.
“These issues are compounded by the high number of Mauritanians in the United States and elsewhere who are stateless, resulting from past Mauritanian government practices related to stripping human and other rights based on race and ethnic origin.” The letter said that the Ohio Immigrant Alliance interviewed more than 100 Black Mauritanians who have been harassed by officials and denied identity documents. The letter points to forced statelessness, where the government has made Black Mauritanians and their children undocumented in their own country.
“While the Mauritanian government continues to fail to follow basic international human rights norms, with devastating human consequences, it is imperative that the United States ensure nationals and stateless Mauritanians are able to remain in the U.S. in safety with their families,” the organizations plead.
The Biden administration this week renewed (though did not expand) protections for Venezuelan immigrants. In initially announcing relief last year, Mayorkas cited “a complex humanitarian crisis marked by widespread hunger and malnutrition, a growing influence and presence of non-state armed groups, repression, and a crumbling infrastructure.”
Organizations in this week’s letter to Mayorkas said that “conditions outlined” by them “and in numerous State Department reports have satisfied TPS designations for other nations.” Venezuelan immigrants and allies who this week welcomed news of the renewal also urged the administration to enact this same relief for Black immigrants from Mauritania, as well as from Ethiopia.
“Similarly, the Biden administration should also designate TPS for Mauritania and Ethiopia while individuals and families from these countries living in the U.S. would face terrible harms, including violence and the threat of enslavement, if they were forced to return,” said FWD.us director of digital campaigns Juan Escalante, a former Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient born in Venezuela.