I am working as an Executive Intern for Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and engagement of African American and black immigrant communities in order to help them organize and advocate for racial, social and economic justice, and to stand against policies that affect them in their communities. BAJI exists in New York, Georgia, California, and Arizona. BAJI provides training in “Know Your Rights,” which is a community training on basic rights individuals should be aware of to protect themselves from police abuses.
BAJI helps Black immigrants in stopping Immigration and Customs Enforcements (known as ICE) officers who arrest undocumented immigrants in their homes, hospitals and on the streets and have them deported for little offenses such as jumping a train or getting a parking ticket, and sometimes for no reason at all. BAJI accomplishes this goal through a program called “MetroCard Sweep.” New York City MetroCard fares have been increasing for the past number of years and people do not always have the means to pay for it. This program consists of BAJI workers and volunteers buying MetroCards and giving a free swipe to anybody needing it in order to lower the number of people getting tickets leading to ICE arrests and deportation and to overall decrease the number of illegal train jumps in New York City.
The Executive Order on immigration has caused chaos in undocumented immigrants communities, and as a response BAJI workers have made it a priority to receive phone calls and direct people to free legal services and lawyers that can advocate for them. I have been personally responding to calls, referring people to our partner lawyers and answering general questions they might have about immigration and how their statuses matter at this moment. Since the executive order, we have been working on offering more “Know Your Rights” events mostly in Public International High Schools.
At BAJI, I do not have fixed assignments but work as needed. My principal job is to assist Opal Tometi, Director of BAJI, in meetings, research and work closely with her on our new project called “Migration within African countries.” Under Opal’s supervision, I have been contacting national and international organizations advocating for universal human rights and migrants rights to ally with them and unite for the accomplishment of our common goals. My contacts are mostly from West and East Africa and I speak to them in a language they understand.
I have also been translating documents into French for rallies and protests. The African Migration Report is my main project. I am researching aspects of how migration works within Africa, how the immigration laws compare to the ones of the Western world, and trying to connect with organizations helping African refugees and migrants in African countries. The report aims to be informative about migration in Africa and how this topic has not been talked about in the past. Besides this, I am working on Zero Tolerance Policies for Black and Brown students in public institutions and how restorative justice and peer mentoring can help prevent severe and unfair punishments of students of color in public institutions in New York City.
I have been working with every BAJI staff member, learning to organize events and protests efficiently, looking at how policies are written, developed and implemented, and how to expand my networking skills with people and organizations.
The work BAJI does has been helping undocumented immigrants in many aspects. We have fought side by side with lawyers to stop ICE officers from arresting people in the street, and have saved many undocumented people from being abused and deported without legal representation in court or visits by their family. Even with a small staff, I have learned from BAJI that community organizing is very efficient, both in engaging the community as well as teaching them to advocate and stand for what they deserve.
For more information on Black Alliance for Just Immigration, check out the links below.
Black Alliance for Just immigration is located at 660 Nostrand Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11216.