Black Alliance for Just Immigration: Frederick Douglass Award Honoree

The Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) is a national organization that was formed to educate and engage African American and Black immigrant communities to organize and advocate for racial, social, and economic justice. Founded in 2006 in response to repressive immigration bills being considered on state and federal levels, BAJI organized to bring Black voices to the fight. BAJI has grown from its local roots to become a national force, impacting policy and activism for African Americans and Black immigrants, with an active chapter in New York City.

BAJI’s flagship project is the Black Immigration Network (BIN), a national alliance that brings together Black-led organizations to advance fair immigration policies and promote cultural shifts in communities. BAJI provides training and technical assistance to BIN and other partner organizations to develop leadership skills, communication, and advocacy plans. Individuals and organizations join BAJI because it provides a communal space for diverse Black communities to connect, engage, and advocate for equality and justice for all Black people.

BAJI received its first grant from North Star Fund in 2014 for the New York City “Safety Beyond Policing” Coalition. Because disproportionate numbers of Black Americans and Black immigrants are arrested and abused while in the system, the coalition sought to convince the New York City Council to re-allocate budget resources from policing to public safety programs such as jobs, vocational education, and affordable housing. While the city increased the NYPD budget that year, BAJI was successful in influencing the city to engage communities around local public safety concerns, and worked concurrently to train the Black community about issues of immigration, police encounters, and community organizing.

North Star Fund grants have also enabled BAJI to help individuals and families affected by police violence. In the case of David Felix, a homeless man with mental illness killed by police in an NYC shelter, BAJI worked on his family’s behalf to raise the profile of the case in the media, resulting in a reopening of the investigation.

North Star Fund also seeded BAJI’s Haitian Families Reunification Program, which serves NYC’s enormous Haitian population. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti killed 250,000 people and left millions homeless, the Department of Homeland Security approved 105,000 family-based Haitian visa applications, many of them for children, but they were left in limbo for five years. BAJI organized and amplified the issue to the Obama Administration by building a coalition of grassroots organizations, professional associations, and small business groups to expedite the processing. The progress has been slow but steady with 13,000 visas issued over the past two years.

BAJI plays an important role in elevating Black immigrant issues that would otherwise be invisible within racial justice organizing. They provide concrete, “rapid response,” support for Black immigrants when they encounter the police or the justice system to ensure they are not summarily deported.

In 2015, North Star Fund and BAJI collaborated on the groundbreaking Let Us Breathe Forum, which brought together over 25 allied groups of organizers, donors, educators, and artists to strategize developing Black leaders and build support for investment in Black-led organizing. BAJI is now collaborating on local campaigns to address the increased Immigration and Customs Enforcement presence in Black immigrant communities. And by providing a creative space, BAJI’s Freedom Film Series is an ongoing collection of conversations on Black liberation centered on films, food, and facilitated dialogue.

Carl Lipscombe, BAJI’s Policy and Legal Manager says, “North Star Fund recognized BAJI’s potential to impact Black immigrant communities in New York at an early stage. The funding has contributed greatly to the progress made here in the city and across the country toward improving the lives of Black people and Black immigrants in the US. North Star Fund saw good, raw ideas and was willing to invest to turn them into realities.”
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