The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) was established in April 2006, in response to what its founders called “the repressive immigration bills” which had recently been brought before the U.S. Congress — most notably the Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act sponsored by Republican Representatives William Sensenbrenner and Peter King. This legislation affirmed the “inherent authority” of states to assist with federal immigration-law enforcement, called for enhanced security along the U.S. southern border, and proposed harsher civil penalties for employers hiring illegal immigrants.
BAJI describes itself as an “education and advocacy” group composed of native-born black Americans as well as black immigrants from Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Its principal founders were Rev. Kelvin Sauls, a Methodist minister of South African lineage who laments that his “Palestinian brothers and sisters” have long been victimized by the “apartheid state” of Israel, and Rev. Phillip Lawson, co-founder of the California Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights. Also assisting in BAJI’s establishment was the Priority Africa Network (PAN), which seeks to bridge the political, geographic, and cultural chasms that divide various black populations, and to create a unified movement for “social and economic justice” centered on racial identity. Because African Americans throughout history have been “economically exploited, marginalized and discriminated against,” BAJI explains, they “have much in common with people of color who migrate to the United States, documented and undocumented.” All of them, says BAJI, have suffered greatly as a result of “racism and economic globalization.”
BAJI’s agendas and policy recommendations — particularly as regards immigration policy — stem from its four core principles:
A member organization of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, BAJI calls for a prohibition against mass deportations and indefinite detentions of illegal immigrants; restrictions against the use of local or state government agencies in the enforcement of federal immigration laws; a “fair path to legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants”; and the “reunification of families,” to be achieved by permitting the foreign relatives of newly legalized immigrants to relocate to the United States.
To promote these agendas, BAJI works with a host of immigrant-rights, faith-based, racial-justice, civil-rights, and economic-justice organizations to co-sponsor or participate in forums, presentations, workshops, and conferences that “address the root causes of migration and African American-immigrant issues in order to bring the [two] communities together in dialogue.” In addition, BAJI offers training, technical assistance, and networking opportunities designed to facilitate the immigrant-rights campaigns of both native- and foreign-born black activists. The group also participates in advocacy efforts for “fair and just immigration reform”; collaborates with groups seeking to stop workplace immigration raids and the deportation of illegals; takes part in immigrant-rights rallies as well as media events to expose “abuses” perpetrated against immigrants; and organizes educational tours to countries that send many immigrants to the United States, particularly Mexico and Haiti.
In 2010 BAJI partnered with the American Friends Service Committee and a number of other organizations in a national campaign to secure more family visas and humanitarian parole visas for Haitians who had been devastated by the earthquake that struck their country in January of that year. According to BAJI, “the long history of U.S. corporations exploiting Haitian workers in the foreign-owned sweatshops and factories” had contributed greatly to the earthquake’s death toll by “subvert[ing]” Haiti’s economy and thus relegating “millions of unemployed and impoverished Haitians” to “substandard, earthquake-prone housing.” To makes amends for these transgressions, says BAJI, the United States government should “increase its grants to assist in the relief efforts and in the rebuilding of Haiti.” Moreover, “the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the InterAmerican Development Bank should cancel Haiti’s current debt immediately.”
BAJI’s executive director is Gerald Lenoir, who is also a board member of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In addition, Lenoir co-founded the Priority Africa Network and the HIV Education & Prevention Project of Alameda County, California; he served as executive director of the Black Coalition on AIDS in San Francisco; and he was an editorial board member of War Times, an anti-Iraq War newspaper founded in January 2002 by Van Jones and a group of fellow San Francisco leftists affiliated with such organizations as the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and STORM.
For additional information on BAJI, click here.