To raise views on racism and xenophobia in U.S. refugee coverage, the Jeb E. Brooks Faculty of Public Coverage hosted a lecture on Wednesday, April 26 that includes Nigerian refugee and writer Edafe Okporo and College of California, Los Angeles legislation professor E. Tendayi Achiume.
Okporo was born and raised in Nigeria, however was compelled to flee in 2016 due to his concern of persecution and sought asylum within the U.S. — solely to be imprisoned in a detention middle for over 5 months. He particulars his expertise in his e-book, “Asylum: A Memoir and Manifesto.”
“The U.S. immigration stripped me of my humanity,” Okporo stated. “The enjoyment and pleasure I had approaching the U.S. border searching for security, rapidly became ache and anguish and sorrow.”
Okporo stated that he dreamed of accomplishing a school diploma, getting married, having a job and elevating kids in Nigeria. When he was 18-years-old, Okporo found his sexual orientation as a homosexual particular person, and stated he feared it might derail his risk of attaining his desired future. He internally grappling with how his preliminary plans — and his private identification — had modified.
In 2014, Nigeria handed a legislation that criminalized same-sex relationships. Being an brazenly homosexual particular person to his household and buddies, Okporo knew it was now not secure for him to remain in his house nation.
“I attempted to remain in my nation, however as a sufferer of constant violence attributable to my sexual orientation, I needed to make a tough resolution to flee in quest of security,” Okporo stated.
After leaving Nigeria, Okporo imagined that he can be welcomed with open arms in america, however as a substitute discovered himself rapidly handcuffed on the John F. Kennedy Worldwide Airport on arrival. He anticipated to achieve autonomy upon coming into america, however that was not the case.
“I’ve imagined america to be a extra welcoming place. The emblem that we’re standing for [is] liberty, justice [and] freedom for all,” Okporo stated. “I used to be handcuffed on the airport, shackles positioned on my ft and pushed to a detention middle [for] searching for security in america.”
With illustration from a pro-bono legislation agency, Okporo was launched from the detention camp after spending 5 months and 14 days locked up in a cell. When he was launched, Okporo was left to determine methods to dwell in america on his personal.
“As an alternative of security. I used to be met with hostility,” Okporo stated. “I by no means knew what [it’s like] to dwell in a racist nation.”
After his time in a detention middle, Okporo stated he noticed firsthand systemic points throughout the immigration system. Earlier than arriving in america, the one story Okporo heard was that America was a welcoming nation.
Okporo particularly emphasised within the lecture that many refugees, asylum seekers and displaced folks don’t have any different choice however emigrate attributable to persecution, warfare, famine and strife. In line with Okporo, the U.S.’s present legal guidelines don’t mirror shifts in public notion.
Okporo acknowledged that in keeping with the Pew Analysis Heart, 63 p.c of Individuals have been in opposition to immigrants relocating to America within the Nineties. Thirty years later, 66 p.c of Individuals see immigrants as a powerful contribution to society. Whereas American views have modified over time, Okporo believes folks nonetheless query why undocumented immigrants are allowed to dwell in america, and why cash is spent on immigration.
On account of his expertise, Okporo stated he seeks to tell folks of the issue, work to abolish detention facilities and grant immigrants the prospect to assimilate in American society by studying English, so they don’t fall down earlier than they’re given an opportunity to climb up. In line with Okporo, the mixing course of of individuals into america must be reviewed, and insurance policies want to advertise variety and inclusion.
“[When I came to the U.S., I had] no housing, no authorized assist, no type of assist,” Okporo stated. “So we’re bringing [in] folks, but permitting them to fall via the cracks of society.”
E. Tendayi Achiume
Achiume is the inaugural Alicia Miñana professor of legislation on the College of California, Los Angeles Faculty of Regulation, a analysis affiliate of the African Heart for Migration and Society on the College of Witwatersrand and a professor within the Division of Jurisprudence on the College of Pretoria.
All through the lecture, Achiume targeted on what she believes to be two fundamental assumptions: that borders are impartial establishments that needs to be protected and defended in any respect prices and that racism and xenophobia isn’t a predominant downside within the immigration and border system in america and the world extra broadly. Achiume asserted that although these assumptions make it appear that borders are honest, there may be proof that exhibits these speculations are false.
Achiume stated that there are insurance policies in place governing the motion of asylum seekers and refugees, excluding immigrants in want of assist. Achiume added that financial migrants — these searching for an improved lifestyle — are sometimes handed apart in favor of asylum seekers, since these searching for asylum are sometimes unable to return to their nation of origin.
“Once we take into consideration unlawful immigrants, they’re understood in most public discourse as [a] political stranger proper there standing exterior of the political borders of ‘We the Individuals’ — we the [United States] residents,” Achiume stated. “[It is generally accepted] that our standing as residents implies that we’ve got a collectively-held unilateral proper to resolve who might cross the borders of our nation-state,” Achiume stated.
Achiume goes on to present examples of displaced folks, corresponding to Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis, who’ve been displaced on account of U.S. intervention and army operations. She stated an estimated 37 million folks have been displaced as refugees, asylum seekers or internally displaced.
A latest resolution by the Biden administration has made it a requirement that anybody searching for asylum alongside the U.S. southern border should accomplish that via the CBP One cellular software. Achiume cited latest reviews that the app’s facial recognition software program has been unable to constantly acknowledge the faces of Black migrants and folks seeking to relocate with darker complexions. If the software program is unable to acknowledge a person’s face, the declare doesn’t undergo.
“Relying on the place you’re, one perform of being socially constructed as non-white is that your non-whiteness enforces inclusion or exclusion,” Achiume stated.
Moreover, Achiume stated U.S. states are simply as essential because the federal authorities since they’re a patchwork of immigration, inclusion and exclusion. Immigration isn’t a siloed house of oppression, however operates alongside different types of exclusion, in keeping with Achiume. She stated that on account of all of these authorized developments, precedents and oppressive methods have been established.
“[There are] ongoing methods by which colonialism and capitalist imperialism essentially formed nationwide borders [by] embedding racial injustice — even in uncommon seeming establishments, corresponding to citizenship, asylum visas [and] good border applied sciences,” Achiume stated.
Dunia Matta ’25 is a Solar contributor. She might be reached at [email protected]