A business owner in Cameroon was kidnapped by armed rebels in 2019, who tortured him in the jungle, demanding $10,000 ransom from his family. After escaping through a dozen countries and claiming asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, U.S. officials detained him for almost a year, then threatened and assaulted him and put him in solitary confinement before deporting him back to Cameroon. During President Donald Trump’s last weeks in office, Black and African asylum seekers say, the administration is ramping up deportations using assault and coercion, forcing them back to countries where they face harm, reports the Los Angeles Times. The allegations have shed light on a group of immigrants who have been targeted by the president’s policies to restrict asylum. Asylum seekers from Africa and the Caribbean make up a small but fast-growing proportion of the 16,000 immigrants in detention today across the U.S.
Despite Trump’s assault on asylum, explicit bias against Black asylum seekers, and border closures, some 20,000 Haitians and Africans have journeyed from South America, largely on foot, to claim protection at the U.S.-Mexico border during Trump’s time in office. President-elect Joe Biden says he will end use of for-profit immigration detention, reverse many of Trump’s asylum policies, and reform the U.S. immigration system. Trump has left Biden with decades-long private-prison contracts; 400 executive actions on immigration; a record immigration court backlog of 1.2 million cases; and record-high asylum denial rates, reaching 70 percent last month. Lawyers have filed complaints with the Homeland Security Department documenting the cases of at least 14 Cameroonian asylum seekers at four detention facilities in Louisiana and Mississippi who were subjected to coercion and physical abuse by ICE to force their deportation. More than 100 asylum seekers have reported ICE using or threatening force to put them on deportation flights, in particular to Haiti and West Africa.