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Reps. Ilhan Omar, Karen Bass and Joe Neguse Introduce ENSURE Act to Stop Mass Deportation of Eritreans

February 6, 2020
Press Release
WASHINGTON – Today, Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Karen Bass (D-CA), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Africa, and Joe Neguse (D-CO) introduced the Eritrean Nationals' Safety from Unjust Removal or Expulsion (ENSURE) Act. The ENSURE Act stops the United States from deporting Eritreans fleeing state oppression by placing a two-year stay on removals; prohibiting the detention of Eritrean nationals during removal procedures; and, requiring up-to-date reporting on Eritreans facing imminent removal.

“This administration will stop at nothing to make life painful for people of color seeking a better future. Not only has the President added Eritrea to its latest Muslim Ban, but he is also now threatening to deport Eritreans who have settled here. Rather than responding to human rights violations by the Eritrean government with compassion and decency, this administration has responded with cruel and reckless immigration policies that put many people in extreme danger,” Rep. Omar said. “Our country must live up to the values we hold dear as a nation and provide a refuge for those fleeing persecution and violence.”

“Last year, I led a Congressional Delegation to Eritrea,” Rep. Bass said. “By adding Eritrea to the third iteration of his Muslim ban, the President is sending a message of abandonment to the Eritrean people. I’m proud to support this important piece of legislation to prevent the intentional deportations of Eritreans fleeing their country and urge my colleagues to support this bill as well.”

“For the President to target Eritrean refugees with deportation efforts, yet again shows this Administration’s commitment to denigrating the U.S.’s long held legacy in refugee resettlement,” said Rep. Neguse. “America has always played a leadership role in refugee resettlement, setting a legacy of compassion and shelter, and it is essential we continue to uphold this legacy and our American values.”

In 2017, the Trump Administration began taking steps to remove approximately 700 Eritrean nationals from the United States. DHS has recently confirmed that some of these individuals are now being deported back to Eritrea. Deportees to Eritrea face severe human rights abuses upon returning, including prolonged detention, torture, and extra judicial killings.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced the third iteration of the Muslim Ban, expanding the discriminatory policy to nationals of Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan, and four African nations, including Eritrea. This substantial increase in removals, along with the ban on travel, ignores the ongoing human rights crisis in Eritrea and subjects political dissidents, LGBTQIA+ individuals, journalists, religious minorities and those escaping indefinite military service to great risk.

Reps. André Carson, Yvette Clarke, Angie Craig, Eliot L. Engel, Adriano Espaillat, Jimmy Gomez, Raúl M. Grijalva, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Steven Horsford, Sheila Jackson Lee, Pramila Jayapal, Hank Johnson, Ro Khanna, Wm. Lacy Clay, Barbara Lee, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Donald M. Payne, Jr., Dean Phillips, Ayanna Pressley, Jamie Raskin, Bobby L. Rush, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Smith, Rashida Tlaib, and Bonnie Watson Coleman are all original cosponsors of the bill.

The bill has been endorsed by the Advancement Project, African Communities Together, Alianza Americas, Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, CASA, Center for Victims of Torture, Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice, Church World Service, Disciples Refugee and Immigration Ministries, Families Belong Together, Freedom to Thrive, International Rescue Committee, MediaJustice, National Immigration Law Center, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, The America Team for Displaced Eritreans, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC International), UndocuBlack Network, United We Dream, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and Win Without War.

“Immigrant youth and families of United We Dream proudly support the ENSURE Act because we know that we must all stand together against attacks from Trump and his anti-immigrant administration,” said Sanaa Abrar, Advocacy Director at United We Dream. “We also know that deportation is never the answer. Immigrants from Eritrea are facing persecution, torture and even death if they are torn away from their communities by the deportation force of ICE and CBP. With bills like the ENSURE Act we are rejecting Trump's immigration policies of hate and division, and instead we are building a new national consensus focused on the humanity of immigrants.”

“The deporting of Eritreans is aligned with the racist and xenophobic agenda of the Trump administration,” said Abraham Paulos, Deputy Director of Policy and Communications at the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. “The separation of Eritrean-American families is yet another recent attack in the long war on Black communities and families in the U.S. Eritreans have been migrating to the U.S. for decades and are interwoven in the fabric of American communities. As an Eritrean, I am proud of U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse, who comes from Eritrean parents who emigrated to the U.S. 35 years ago, fleeing the same conditions.  The deportation of Eritreans is an insult to the American dream and what U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse represents. The ENSURE act is one step in the right direction to protect the rights and dignity of Black immigrants who are seeking refuge and to ensure that Eritrean American communities are not further traumatized.”