Black History Month: Diversity and Strength of the Black Immigrant Community in the U.S.

Publication date: 
February 2019
African girl turning in her chair at primary school. From GCIR's Black History Month: Diversity and Strength of the Black Immigrant Community in the U.S. webinar.


Black immigrant communities and the organizations that serve them largely remain invisible in immigration policy discussions and for philanthropy. In honor of Black History Month, GCIR and ABFE co-organized this webinar to uplift the lived experiences of Black immigrants. Cosponsored by 22 colleague philanthropy supporting organizations, the briefing highlighted a wide range of issues impacting Black immigrants and ways that philanthropy can address these issues.

  • Marlein Bastien, Family Action Network
  • Carl Hamad-Lipscombe, Black Alliance for Just Immigration
  • Jonathan Jayes-Green, UndocuBlack Network
  • Guerline M. Jozef, Haitian Bridge Alliance


The webinar highlighted two sets of circumstances that propelled recent Black immigration to the United States: 1) Haitians seeking refuge and entry at the San Diego-Tijuana border following their secondary displacement from Brazil, a country in which they had settled after displacement due to the devastating 2010 earthquake and which is now in economic turmoil, and 2) Individuals granted Temporary Protected Status (TPS) at varying points over the past 30 years due to upheaval in their countries of origin such as Haiti, Somalia, and Sudan. In the case of the former, there are significant unmet humanitarian and legal support needs, and in the case of the later, recent attempts by the federal administration to end the TPS program have caused tremendous mental anguish, placing hundreds of thousands of mixed-status families at risk of deportation and/or separation.


Although a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in late 2018 preventing the Trump administration from ending the TPS program for over 300,000 individuals, the immediate reality for these individuals and their families is one of uncertainty and fear over their future. With many TPS holders having lived, worked, opened businesses, bought homes, and raised U.S. citizen children over the past several decades, the potential for damaging social, economic, and family upheaval is high. In response, Black immigrant-serving organizations such as UndocuBlack and the Family Action Network are mobilizing their communities to educate policy makers about the serious implications of TPS termination and encouraging the passage of legislation that would provide pathways to permanent residency. A key part of their legislative strategy includes raising the voices of U.S. citizen children whose parents are at risk of deportation, as well as rallying business leaders and other allies.


For Haitians and other Black immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, organizations like the Haitian Bridge Alliance have been organizing medical, legal, and humanitarian assistance on both sides of the border. Up to an estimated 4,000 Black immigrants have been detained or obstructed at the border for the last two years as they seek entry to the United States following their displacement from Brazil and other South and Central American nations. The sheer scale of health, nutrition, and legal service needs—coupled with a sizeable gap in resources for culturally fluent organizations—means thousands of Black immigrants are languishing at the Southern border without dignity or hope. On the U.S. side of the border the Haitian Bridge Alliance is providing essential services including English as a Second Language classes, employment readiness training, and support in securing passports and driver’s licenses. Here, too, a dearth of philanthropic investments is limiting the scale of assistance.


Compounding the challenges facing Black immigrants in the United States are the barriers faced by the organizations that serve them. Black-led and -serving nonprofit organizations experience substantial barriers to securing philanthropic support for their work, in part driven by siloed funding approaches to immigration and racial equity that do not fully appreciate organizations sitting at the intersection of these two lines of work. In addition, many Black organizational leaders experience an external lack of trust in their leadership that compromises their ability to raise funds in support of their work to serve and empower Black immigrant communities.


Recommendations for Funders

To increase understanding and support of Black immigrant communities, speakers encouraged funders to:

  • Learn more about the issues impacting the health and wellbeing of Black communities in the United States (speakers invited funders to visit Little Haiti in Florida and the San Diego-Tijuana border)
  • Connect to and build relationships with organizational leaders of, by, and for Black immigrant communities of all backgrounds—and trust and invest in these Black immigrant leaders and their organizations
  • Invest in targeted health, nutrition, and legal assistance for Haitians and other Black immigrants at the southern border
  • Support grassroots advocacy and organizing strategies to secure a solution to the TPS cancellation emergency

For more information, please contact GCIR’s Director of National Programs, Kevin Douglas. We also invite you to check out upcoming GCIR and ABFE programs.