Exclusive: Members of Congress urge the Biden-Harris administration to stop the deportation of Black Mauritanians due to threats of racism in the African country

Members of Congress have written a letter to the Biden-Harris administration requesting President Joe Biden grant Mauritanians Temporary Protected Status (TPS) due to “ethnic cleansing” in the Northwestern African country.

U.S. Rep. Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick, D-Fl., told theGrio that more than half of the Mauritanian population is “vulnerable to enslavement-like conditions.”

The U.S. Capitol building is shown in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

She stated that Black Mauritanians, who are at a higher risk of being enslaved, have sought refuge in the United States to escape sexual assault, family separation, and murder.   

Currently, 8,000 Mauritanians live in the U.S., and Cherfilus-McCormick says it is the duty of the United States to protect them from deportation and grant them TPS. 

As a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, our obligation as being the conscious…is to speak up for Black people who are suffering these conditions,” she said.

In the letter, Cherfilus-McCormick along with Reps. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, and Mike Carey, R-Ohio, stated that, if Black Mauritanians were deported back to their African nation, they “would likely face violence and potentially death.” 

In 1989, Mauritania stripped citizenship from roughly 50,000 Black people, forcing them to surrender their nationality documents. Black Mauritanians, for decades, have been subjected to racial profiling, torture, extortion, and slavery. 

Rep. Joyce Beatty CBC
Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, (pictured) is part of a group of Congressional members seeking Temporary Protected Status for Mauritanians. (Photo courtesy of Rep. Joyce Beatty)

Although slavery was outlawed in 1981 and criminalized in 2007, Congressional members argue that the government does not successfully enforce anti-slavery laws, which allows the practice to prevail. Black Mauritanians who face enslavement are often sexually assaulted, separated from relatives, and killed.  

Black Mauritanians who are not enslaved also face hardship when trying to achieve daily activities because of a language barrier. Most of the country’s Black population speaks French, which was widely spoken throughout the nation before the government declared Arabic as the country’s official language in 1991. As a result, Black Mauritanians experience challenges when performing everyday duties, applying for jobs and obtaining medical records, court records, and government-issued documents.

Cherfilus-McCormick told theGrio, that she is hopeful the Biden-Harris administration will respond “positively” to the letter.

She stated, “For decades, there has been a bipartisan consensus in the United States government to protect Black Mauritanians,” and she does not believe the Biden-Harris administration will stray from that. 

On the contrary, she stated that the U.S. is seeing a rise in “anti-immigrant rhetoric” and hopes that does not impede the process of granting Mauritanians TPS.

Members of the CBC,
Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, conducts a news conference following the CBC’s National Summit on Democracy & Race on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, near Capitol Hill. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives stated in the letter that if the Biden-Harris administration granted Mauritanians TPS, it would save lives and demonstrate the administration’s “dedication to upholding human rights.” 

Cherfilus-McCormick told theGrio that Mauritanians living in the U.S. who have been granted TPS are contributing members of society.

She said that now the objective is to get conservatives on board with seeing the benefits that Mauritanians and other migrants offer as opposed to “engaging in xenophobia” and “anti-immigration rhetoric,” which harm the migrant community. 

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Members of Congress have sent a letter to the Biden-Harris administration requesting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Mauritanians due to ethnic cleansing in Mauritania. They argue that Black Mauritanians face enslavement-like conditions and are at risk of sexual assault, family separation, and murder. More than 8,000 Mauritanians currently live in the U.S. and the lawmakers believe it is the duty of the U.S. to protect them from deportation. They argue that Black Mauritanians who are deported back to their country would likely face violence and potentially death. Despite slavery being outlawed and criminalized, the lawmakers argue that the government does not enforce anti-slavery laws, allowing the practice to prevail. They also highlight the challenges faced by Black Mauritanians, such as a language barrier and difficulties in daily activities, due to the official language being changed from French to Arabic. The lawmakers are hopeful that the Biden-Harris administration will respond positively to their request for TPS, despite the rise in anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S. They argue that granting TPS to Mauritanians would save lives and demonstrate the administration’s dedication to upholding human rights.

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