WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Representatives Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), and Joyce Beatty (D-OH) led a group of lawmakers in a bicameral letter calling on Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to cease the deportation of Black Mauritanian nationals, who face the threat of race-based discrimination, violence, or slavery if forced to return to Mauritania.
“Most Mauritanians in the United States arrived here seeking refuge from government-led racial and ethnic persecution and extreme violence,” wrote the lawmakers. “For the following two decades our government declined to deport Mauritanians because of the dangerous and potentially life-threatening conditions they would face if they were returned to their country of origin.”
There are approximately 3,000 Black Mauritanians in the United States, most of whom arrived in the 1990s after their government forcibly expelled them and stripped them of their citizenship on the basis of their race and ethnicity. So far in fiscal year 2018, the Trump administration has deported 79 Mauritanians, up from eight in FY 2017.
The lawmakers continued, “Mauritanians deported from the United States face unacceptable threats of racial and ethnic discrimination and slavery…We ask DHS and the State Department to jointly respond within 60 days to the following questions to clarify U.S. policies and practices regarding deportations of Mauritanians.”
In addition to Senator Harris and Representatives Thompson, Nadler, Lofgren, and Beatty, the letter was signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), John Lewis (D-GA), Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Al Green (D-TX), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Judy Chu (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and David Cicilline (D-RI).