Santa Ana, Orange County –– At today’s presidential inauguration President Biden and Vice-President Harris shared with the public their executive actions as well as their top priorities for the new administration. Among them to address were COVID-19, Economic Relief, Climate Change and Racial Equity. Despite the well use of these buzzwords, their commitments must go deep to address systemic and structural violence exacerbated by past administrations.
A Call For A Full Stop on Immigration Enforcement
Although the new administration has centered immigration as their top priority, they have failed to listen to the ongoing demands from grassroots organizers and advocates who have been calling for the liberation of all immigrants, the shutting down of immigrantion detention centers and bold legislation that undoes the harm of criminalization.
While the Biden Administration has outlined a need to address the “root cause” of immigration from Central America, they have failed to reckon with the US’s role in creating the conditions that forced people to migrate to this country in the first place.
Not only that, this new administration has to address its anti-Black and anti-immigrant policies that has led Black immigrants from Haiti, Cameroon and other African countries to languish in family detention centers across the United States. In a recent report, RAICES, a community organization in Texas highlighted the impact of the immigration system on Black immigrants. They pointed out that in 2020 alone, “the U.S. detained more Haitian families than any other ethnic group.” Furthermore, they point out that Black immigrants on average pay higher bonds to gain their freedom and are at greater risk of deportation. Black-led organizations have been doing the work of uplifting and pushing back against the constant erasure of Black immigrants.
The question is, what is the plan of the Biden-Harris administration? How will they protect and respond to the needs of the Black community when it continues to be under attack? Guerline Jozef, Executive Director at the Haitian Bridge Alliance highlights that on the night prior to the inauguration, Black immigrants from Haiti, Jamaica and Mauritania were being deported and two Haitian brothers were separated by CBP at the San Francisco airport, leading to the deportation of one and the placement of the other in ORR custody. There is nothing to fix about an immigration system that is rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness. One begs to question whether the system is broken or if it was created this way.
President Biden has a moral obligation to put state and local governments on check because they too have been complicit in detentions and deportations. Biden can take action by directing the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to stop all detentions and deportations. Far too often we have seen these agencies go unchecked and have often violated the constitutional rights of individuals to effectuate arrests and deportations. White supremacists have not only stormed the Capitol in DC in recent days, for the past four years and beyond they have also hidden behind police uniforms to facilitate the deportation of community members without question or accountability. Here locally in Orange County, Sheriff Don Barnes in 2019 worked to deport close to 500 Orange County residents, the most from any law enforcement agency in the state of California.
ICE, their deportation machine, criminalization, over-policing and police-ICE collusion runs deep. We need bold leadership from Biden and Harris to stop these violations and deportations.
Response Needed to Address COVID in Orange County
Taking a closer look at Orange County, elected officials have neglected and actively pushed conspiracy theories about the reality and devastation of COVID-19. Their lack of leadership on the issue has exacerbated COVID cases in the County. The Voice of OC has reported that yesterday on Biden’s inauguration “1,975 people were hospitalized, including 527 in intensive care units. But deaths are steadily increasing. The virus has now killed 2,508 people out of 216,509 confirmed cases, including 31 new deaths [today].” Additionally, there was a major outbreak earlier this month inside the Orange County Jail that toppled over 1,000 cases. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department failed to adequately respond to the onset of this outbreak in the jail when it originally started with 74 cases.
As a whole, COVID-19 continues to spread throughout central Orange County impacting cities like Anaheim and Santa Ana where there are heavy concentrations of communities of color, there are lower household incomes, and are higher density areas. While it may be easy to blame our communities for the spread of the virus, systemic barriers, housing discrimination, gentrification, policing, lack of access to affordable healthcare have all contributed to these cities being hotspots. In short, COVID is wreaking havoc on communities of color in Orange County.
And while national data shows that communities of color, including Black, Indigenous and People of Color are the hardest hit by COVID, white people have made up the majority (43%) of those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine in Orange County thus far leaving behind the Latinx and Black community. The rollout of the vaccine has missed the mark. While we know the first round and rollout of the vaccine has gone to frontline healthcare workers, we can not ignore race in the subsequent rounds of the rollout, especially in cities hardest hit by COVID like Anaheim and Santa Ana. The new administration has to prioritize Black, Indigenous, and Communities of Color in their vaccine distribution to meet local and national trends of COVID spread.
COVID in Prisons and Immigration Detention Centers
Beyond Orange County at the Adelanto Immigration Detention in San Bernardino where OC residents are detained for ICE, ICE has failed to adequately respond to several outbreaks which eventually led a federal judge to intervene to immediately reduce the detained population. President Joe Biden cannot talk about responding to the coronavirus without explicitly mentioning and addressing the outbreaks in federal and state prisons, immigration detention centers, city and county jails.
Our Fight is Not Over
To the Biden-Harris Administration: Do better, listen and take leadership from grassroots organizing efforts who have been on the ground working with directly impacted community members and youth.
To the Community: Our fight is not over. We still share the responsibility of holding this new administration and our local electeds accountable. It has been and continues to be the leadership and advocacy of our communities that has led the way in swinging the pendulum a little more towards justice. There is still much work left to do. People power and advocacy won us local victories including the Santa Ana Sanctuary City Ordinance, Universal Representation for families facing deportation, and created the conditions for youth to reclaim city Funds. Base-building and organizing will be what will guide us through in the coming years.