If it were not for the Canadian leaf tattoo on his wrist, Chris Gustave may not be behind bars.
In October, 24-year-old Gustave was staying at a weekly motel in Phoenix, Arizona, when police arrived searching for his friend, who had violated parole. At first, “all the attention was on him,” Gustave told me in a phone interview last month. But then, Gustave claimed, an officer noticed the tattoo. “The dude just asked if I was Canadian, the next thing I knew I was in here”—“here” being the remote and sprawling Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Eloy, Arizona.
Gustave is one of more than half a million black unauthorized immigrants in the United States—about 575,000 as of 2013. Last week, The New York Times reported that the presence of immigrants from Haiti and Nigeria, who together represent roughly 20 percent of the foreign-born black population, vexed President Trump. The Haitians “all have AIDS,” Trump said in a June meeting with his top advisers according to the Times, while the Nigerians would not “go back to their huts” after seeing America, he said. (The White House denied the comments.)
Research suggests that because black people in the United States are more likely to be stopped, arrested, and incarcerated, black immigrants may be disproportionately vulnerable to deportation. The criminal-justice system acts like a “funnel” into the immigration system, said César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, a University of Denver law professor who studies the nexus of policing and immigration law. New York University law professor Alina Das said black immigrants are “targeted by criminalization.”