Democratic U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler, Hakeem Jeffries, Yvette Clarke and Nydia Velazquez all signed on to a recent letter to top Trump Administration officials urging the immediate cessation of deportations of Mauritanians from the Northwest African Islamic Republic of Mauritania on the grounds that if deported they face enslavement.
The U. S. is home to roughly 3,000 black Mauritanians centered in Ohio and Kentucky. Many made their way to American shores in the 1990s as Mauritania’s government denaturalized them and subjected them to racial and ethnic persecution, including but not limited to violence and enslavement.
In 1981, Mauritania, which has about 4 million people, became the last country in the world to officially abolish slavery. While the country did enact some type of anti-slave legislation in 2007, there has been reported instances of slavery since.
According to Nadler, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee and a main signatory to the letter, so far in fiscal year 2018, the Trump administration has deported 79 Mauritanians, up from eight in FY 2017.
About three dozen Democrats from both the House and Senate signed the Oct. 12 letter, which was sent to both U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and U.S. Department of State Secretary Mike Pompeo.
“The United States of America should be a safe haven for immigrants fleeing unspeakable danger in their home countries…but that’s not the case in Trump’s America,” Jeffries told KCP. “The Administration’s deportation of Mauritanians of African descent, the majority of whom have been here for almost two decades and who face persecution and potential enslavement in Mauritania, is unconscionable and inhumane. I stand with the Mauritanian community and demand the Trump Administration cease their deportations immediately.
But Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Spokesperson Brendan Raedy disagreed with the content of the letter, arguing that the Trump Administration is fulfilling its legal expectations.
“Each country has an obligation under international law to accept the return of its nationals who are not eligible to remain in the United States or any other country. The United States itself routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting its citizens when asked, and ongoing U.S. government efforts have ensured that the majority of the world’s countries do likewise,” Raedy told KCP.
Raedy said the U.S. government provides all those in removal proceedings with an opportunity to apply and be considered for relief from removal.
“After considering the merits of each case, if an immigration judge finds an individual ineligible for any form of relief, the judge will issue a final order of removal, which ICE carries out in accordance with applicable U.S. law. I would also point out that Mauritanian nationals, as all other nationals, who visit the United States legally with a visa and abide by the terms of their respective visa are not subject to removal,” he added.
Whether Mauritania is living up to its obligations as Raedy outlined remains unclear. When this reporter contacted the Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania to the United Nations, its spokespeople declined to comment on the matter.