A coalition of immigrant-serving organizations today announced the *new* Mauritanian Deportation Defense Fund to help fund legal defense, bonds, community support, and related expenses for directly impacted families. With quality legal representation, many Black Mauritanians have successfully stopped their own deportations after fleeing to the U.S. decades ago because of torture, murder, slavery, and abuse at the hands of Mauritania’s ruling class.
For 20 years, Mauritanian immigrants have been pursuing the American Dream, establishing families and businesses here, employing American workers and contributing to communities across the country. Now, the Trump Administration is aggressively detaining Black Mauritanians at their regularly scheduled check-ins with Immigration Customs and Enforcement. When these vulnerable, law-abiding individuals have access to legal counsel, they are generally successful in winning stays and reopening their cases. However, because of the volume and pace with which ICE is executing detention and deportations of Black Mauritanians, funding is critical to mount legal defenses for each individual at risk.
The goal of the Mauritanian Deportation Defense Fund is to ensure that Black Mauritanians fighting deportation have access to qualified legal counsel, so that they can remain at home with their families. Individuals can also text to donate to the fund: ATHOME to 44321. The fund is administered by African Immigrant Relief, the Ohio Immigrant Alliance (led by Ahmed Tidiane, Hamidou Sy, Tafsir Ndiath, and Julie Nemecek), and Cleveland Jobs with Justice. Donations are tax-deductible.
Today’s announcement comes just days after the Office of the United States Trade Representative announced the termination of Mauritania’s trade preference benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, citing forced labor and hereditary slavery as a driver for terminating AGOA eligibility.
In a statement issued earlier this week, Deputy U.S. Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney said “forced or compulsory labor practices like hereditary slavery have no place in the 21st century. This action underscores this Administration’s commitment to ending modern slavery and enforcing labor provisions in our trade laws and trade agreements.”
Despite this, the Trump Administration has ramped up deportations to Mauritania, the last country in the world to abolish slavery, in 1981. Despite making slavery a criminal offense in 2007, between 40,000 and 90,000 of its 4.3 million people are believed to be held in households in a hereditary slavery system, passed from generation to generation, with little consequence from government authorities.