A father was just deported after 22 years in the U.S. Advocates say this is the latest example of anti-Blackness in the immigration system

Advocates say that Black immigrants face a life of double jeopardy in the U.S. as they navigate disproportionate rates of detention and deportation

Last week a Philadelphia father of two was deported to a West African country that he fled over two decades ago due to his ethnic background putting his life at risk. Advocates are saying that this move is “rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness.”

After dropping his 3 and 5-year-old daughters off at school on April 19th, 2023, Christian M’Bagoyi was apprehended by ICE officials in the South Philadelphia neighborhood where he lives with his family and works as a union carpenter. According to his supporters, M’Bagoyi was then transferred to three different detention centers in the span of two weeks, and deported on Wednesday, May 3rd, despite massive public outcry.

Sheila Maddali, a family friend of the M’Bagoyis and the Executive Director of the National Legal Advocacy Network, believes that Christian was intentionally targeted. “For 20 years he worked, paid taxes, provided for his family, reported for all of his ICE supervision visits and was a beloved friend and neighbor,” she said. “Christian’s case is extremely disheartening.”

After overstaying his tourist visa over 20 years ago, M’Bagoyi was issued a final order of removal. But an outpouring of community support helped grant him a stay, which allowed him to work legally under ICE supervision.

Anti-Blackness in the U.S. immigration system

“I believe anti-Black racism is at the heart of ICE’s aggressive prosecution of Christian M’Bagoyi,” said Maddali. “There is no public interest served by his detention and deportation.”

Research has found that Black people face higher denial rates when seeking asylum, and lengthier detentions.

According to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), while Black people comprise 7.2 percent of all noncitizens in the U.S., they make up 20.3 percent of those facing deportation on criminal grounds.

M’Bagoyi’s arrest reflects a larger trend of the U.S. incarcerating immigrants from majority-Black countries at a high rate. One University of California study found that U.S. immigration authorities locked detainees from African and Caribbean countries in solitary confinement six times as often as the population at large.

“The treatment of Black immigrants in detention mirrors that of Black individuals in jails and prisons,” said Keramet Reiter, a University of California, Irvine professor and a co-author of the study, told ICIJ.

“Black immigrants face a life of double jeopardy,” said JUNTOS, a South Philadelphia immigrant organization in a statement released last week after M’Bagoyi’s deportation. “[They’re] constantly targeted by police and immigration enforcement, while facing disproportionate rates of detention and deportation.”

When asked if M’Bagoyi was targeted, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials responded that “all noncitizens in violation of U.S. immigration law may be subject to arrest, detention and removal from the United States, regardless of nationality.

For now, Sarika M’Bagoyi, Christian’s wife, has a message to the Biden administration and Immigration authorities:

“Our government should be investing in keeping families together,” she said in a statement to Reckon. “Taking Christian away from us benefits no one. In fact, it only causes harm.”

She says that her family’s life has been ripped apart as she struggles to manage the responsibilities of being a newly single parent, work a full-time job, all while grieving the separation from her husband.

“I am heartbroken that my soulmate is no longer here with me to watch our daughters grow. They wail for him every morning and there is nothing I can do to console them,” said Sarika. “It is an enormous burden to carry a looming uncertainty over our future.”

Naina Rao

Naina Rao

Naina Rao is Reckon's daily news reporter. She formerly worked at NPR producing for Morning Edition and the Culture Desk, and has experience covering Religion, Arts & Culture, and international news. Naina is fluent in Bahasa Indonesia, proficient in Malay, and is working on her Hindi.

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