As American celebrate this years’ Juneteenth, on Monday June 19, 2023, to mark the end of Slavery in United States, pressure mounts on President Biden and the Secretary Department of Homeland, Security Alejandro Mayorkas to issue an 18-month designation of either Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) for Mauritania, given alleged extraordinary conditions including systemic and ongoing slavery and entrenched ethnic and racial exclusion in the country.
Mauritania, a largely desert land located near the Arab Maghreb and western sub-Saharan Africa is home to a mix of Arab-Berber population to the north and black Africans to the south. Mauritania is Africa’s newest oil producer and is the last country in the world to declare slavery illegal. There are currently an estimated 8,000 foreign-born Mauritanians residing in the United States, many of these people are blacks, from the minority Haratine groups – whose families still live as slaves or bonded laborer’s, domestic servants or child brides even though Slavery was officially banned in that country in 1981.
Thousands of Mauritanians in American are at the risk of being forcibly deported by the USCIS. US Senator Sherrod Brown and Congressman Mike Carey (R-OH), both called attention to the Mauritanians plight in a letter to President Joe Biden and Security Alejandro Mayorkas which states in part: “Beyond enslavement, Afro-Mauritanians or Black Mauritanians forcibly returned to their country face the threat of suffering human rights abuses including arrest, torture, and detention without due process”.
According to some Mauritanians in United States however believe US are slow rolling this urgent request to designate TPS for Mauritania – a country where Black individuals reportedly still face widespread race- and ethnicity-based human rights violations, including slavery. Pockets of protests have started popping up in cities across United States by Mauritanians reasserting the urgent need for a TSP designation. In June 2023, New American Magazine reports another protest in Columbus Ohioreferecing a statement by a community leader and chairman of the New African Immigrants Commission, Ibrahima Sow:, 21st century apartheid against a majority black citizenry is the current reality in Mauritanian. The American way is to defend and protect those yearning for freedom, regardless of their origin’.
The June Protest comes on the heels of a March 23, 2023, letter by, Houleye Thiam, President of the, Mauritanian Network for Human Rights to the Homeland Security Secretary arguing that “Prior to the Trump administration, deportations to Mauritania were largely paused, including under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, due to the prevalence of enslavement and the inability for Mauritanians to obtain identity documents as they were not considered citizens of Mauritania”
According to Ur M. Jaddou, a USCIS Director, United States is actively and will continue to monitor conditions in Mauritania. Ur M Jaddou states in a recent written response to the TSP requests The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a country for TPS and extend or terminate a country’s existing TPS designation based upon specific statutory criteria. In order to designate a country for TPS or extend a country’s TPS designation, the Secretary must find one or more of the following: (1) there is an ongoing armed conflict within the country that would pose a serious threat to the personal safety of the country’s nationals if they were returned; (2) there has been an environmental disaster resulting in a substantial, but temporary, disruption of the living conditions in the area affected, the country is temporarily unable to handle adequately he return of its nationals, and the country has officially requested TPS designation; or (3) there exist extraordinary and temporary conditions in the country that prevent nationals from returning in safety, and the Secretary does not find that permitting the country’s nationals to remain temporarily in the United States would be contrary to the national interest of the United States
The conditions for US designation are fully codified and not without merits. The extension and redesignation of Somalia for TPS for 18 months, from March 18, 2023, through Sept. 17, 2024, was recently announced by the DHS Secretary. The question on the lips of Mauritanians in United States is, What will President Biden do with Mauritanians TSP Status request?