Meet the foundations we that we are honoring in Los Angeles, CA at 2023 NCRP Impact Awards
“GET UP, STAND UP” AWARD FOR RAPID-RESPONSE GRANTMAKING:
the Black Immigrants Bail Fund
Although they had been working together for many years, the Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA) and the African Bureau for Immigration & Social Affairs (ABISA) established the Black Immigrants Bail Fund on the eve of Juneteenth 2020 to address the issues of racism and harsh penalties that Black migrants face while in detention.
While individuals are in detention, BIBF provides no-cost legal representation and aid based on the firm belief that no one’s freedom should hinge on their wealth. Black Lives Matter, no matter where they are born.
“We wish our work didn’t have to be done, but the urgency of the moment demands that we immediately address the dual threat that the criminal justice and immigration system poses to Black immigrant families,” says BIBF Co-Founder & Co-Executive Director Guerline Jozef. “We stand with our colleagues across several trusted movement organizations who know that the more of us who are quickly resourced to lend a hand, the greater the chance that we can bring about a system that gives communities an equal opportunity at the better life we all deserve.”
As conflicts and the climate crisis reshape the safety of local neighborhoods, the United States has seen a rise in the number of migrants from all over the world seeking refuge. Unfortunately, it has also seen an alarming increase in discriminatory punishment that BIBF cannot ignore.
Historical waves of fear, anti-blackness, and systemic exploitation of those on the margins of society often see the federal government (and increasingly, some local and state agencies) lean towards implementing harmful policies that promote deterrence, punishment, exclusion, and legal bans, as a response to the influx of new residents to its shores. Lost in the proposal and voting processes of these legislative efforts are the direct, first-person perspectives and opinions of Black immigrants, despite the marginalization of these communities being the most impacted and adversely affected.
The numbers continue to be very clear. An October 2022 Freedom for Immigrants report noted that while Black immigrants represent 6% of the population of people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), they made up 28% of the accounts of (reported) abuse in ICE detention (citation here). Statistics also show that Black nonbinary individuals in custody have a 3.5% higher risk of experiencing abuse, with 48% of Black immigrants having reported being placed in solitary confinement (citation here). Additionally, Black immigrants are the most likely to be incarcerated or deported and spend three times as long in jail and custody, with higher bond amounts reaching as much as $100,000, with others averaging between $6,000 to $10,000 per person (citation here).
BIBF staff and volunteers confront these challenges head-on as they assist black immigrants nationwide. They understand that incoming migrants have unique needs, regardless of their location. They provide bond payments directly for those in need, while a partnered immigration law firm assists with free legal representation during bond arrangements. In recent years, they have increased their wrap-around services, even covering transportation after release and support services for sponsoring families of detainees across the United States.
Intentionally woven into their shared mission are “collective work and responsibility” and deep cultural values of Ujima (the third principle of Kwanzaa), recognized throughout the United States and African Diaspora. The Black Immigrants Bail Fund utilizes various strategies such as conference panel discussions, phone banking, social media, listservs, and communications with partner organizations and stakeholders to raise awareness of the current climate issues. They encourage various fundraising techniques like phone banking and platforms from Paypal and ActBlue to social media stalwarts like Instagram and Facebook.
Working with individual donors, ex-detainees, mutual-aid groups, religious denominations, and several foundations, BIBF paid nearly $1.01 million in bonds, secured $1.02 million in bond payments from its partner, the Minnesota Freedom Fund, and helped liberate over 232 individuals from detention, between the previous years of 2020-2022.
These efforts have been crucial in raising awareness and generating an urgent call to action for greater widespread support from established philanthropists and individual donors.
“I don’t have much to give, but I give what I can,” wrote individual donor Deborah O, whose comments were published in BIBF’s 2020-2022 Impact Report.
While they prioritize the immediate needs of families in paying the bonds of those held in detention centers, money has also been raised to tell over 2000 stories of people’s firsthand experiences of the harsh reality of the inequitable bail judiciary system. Bringing to light these perspectives that may have never been told otherwise, alongside the staff’s day-to-day legal work, is another way the Black Immigrants Bail Fund looks to change the narratives and assumptions that often fuel and justify disproportionate treatment.
At a time when frontline migrant justice organizations grapple with increasingly hostile environments and limited resources, Black Immigrants Bail Fund’s extraordinary work providing legal assistance and relief to Black immigrants who are wrongfully held in ICE detention is more crucial than ever. While their work looks to dismantle a more extensive system of exploitation and discrimination, BIBF leaders are clear that the collective work is done by individually caring connectors, transforming one life at a time.
“Anpil men, chay pa lou!” Jozef often finds herself repeating. “Many hands make light work!”
Or, as the popular Zulu proverb says, “Izandla ziyagezana.” “Loosely translated, it means “One hand washes another,” says BIBF Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director Dr. Seydi Sarr. “It means we are on this planet to help and build each other up. When we help our neighbor, we are actually helping ourselves in the long run.”