Save The Date: October 9, 2024. Annual Gathering of Ignite Peace.

Two Generations of Mauritanians Waiting for Solutions

By Samantha Searls, Program Director

Thousands of recently arrived immigrants from the West African nation of Mauritania have been settling in the Greater Cincinnati area to seek safety. Their arrival has been welcomed by an older generation of Mauritanians who moved to the U.S. in the 80s and 90s after there was a widespread genocide of Black ethnic groups.

In 2019, Ignite Peace joined local Mauritanian leaders at a march that called for solutions both in the United States and abroad.

Mauritania was the last country in the world to outlaw slavery in 1981, which was codified as a crime for the first time in 2007 and again in 2015. Anti-slavery laws are not enforced to this day and Black Mauritanians still face violence and discrimination. 

Immigrants from Mauritania should have had a straightforward path to be considered refugees through the United Nations, but have been overlooked. Many who came 40 years ago sought asylum in the U.S. but few were granted protections due to fraudulent legal advice. Now, the only viable path for many who are fleeing is to seek asylum at the U.S./Mexico border.

With our asylum system under-resourced and overwhelmed, many Mauritanians wait in legal limbo to make their case for asylum. Most do not have access to work permits, transportation, or even places to live.

Thankfully, advocates have been raising the alarm and demanding solutions for this community. One legal program that would help thousands of Mauritanians immediately is the designation of TPS: Temporary Protected Status. TPS is a program that grants protection against deportation and offers work permits for residents of a particular country who currently reside in the U.S. The designation is made when a country is experiencing armed conflict, environmental disaster, an epidemic, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions that would put people in danger if deported. 16 countries currently have TPS.

The President has the power to designate TPS, but  has stalled in taking action. U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Representatives Mike Carey (R-OH-15), Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3), and Greg Landsman (D-OH-1) recently introduced the TPS for Mauritania Act as a solution. 

While TPS is not a path to citizenship, it’s a program sorely needed by thousands of people in Greater Cincinnati. It’s time for our elected officials to deliver for this vulnerable group.
For more education on the Mauritanian diaspora, consult the Mauritanian Friendship Association of Greater Cincinnati, Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in The US, and the Ohio Immigrant Alliance.