Man in T-shirt saying Peace, Justice, Freedom, Dignity for all

You need to get involved.

Members of the Black Mauritanian community – in Ohio and beyond – have been opening their homes to young men and women applying for asylum in the US. The situation in their native country is growing worse, and more young people are making the dangerous journey to the US.

Immigrant Mauritanians in the US like to debate what Ohio city has the largest Mauritanian community in the US, and while Columbus won out not too long ago, a growing number are calling Cincinnati home.

As Abdoul Mbow wrote in the Columbus Dispatch: “What future is there, when you have no present?”

This community has been carrying too much on its shoulders, alone. Videos of police violence in Mauritania, circulating on social media, and the frantic messages from loved ones, have to be retraumatizing. Then to house one or more new people and try to help them apply for asylum, knowing the stakes are so high if they are denied – it’s a lot to bear.

When the Mauritanian Network for Human Rights held a meeting for recent arrivals, over 500 people showed up! Read about the meeting here and share these resources with people who plan to apply for asylum.

The energy in that room was of mutual understanding and community support. People leading the discussion had been in these shoes twenty to thirty years ago. Now they are leading the assistance effort and their children are helping with interpretation, fundraising, and even giving up their bedrooms for others.

This is where you come in. What can you do to get involved? Help pay for basic needs (rents, bills, groceries).

In several months, the people who apply for asylum will be able to get work permits. Until then, they need financial support. Donate to this community fundraiser to help in Cincinnati and beyond. To help in Cleveland, donate here.

Create housing solutions around Ohio. Our state has many abandoned homes that need rehabbing. Some large churches, malls, and factories are no longer being used. We can repurpose empty spaces to become safe and comfortable homes, for a long-term community benefit. This takes will and planning, but it’s doable and there’s expertise in all of our communities to make it happen.

Call on President Biden and the Department of Homeland Security to designate Temporary Protected Status for Mauritania. Temporary Protected Status is a provision in US law that the federal government can invoke when a country is in crisis, as Mauritania is today. It would provide people with immediate access to work permits and remove the fear of deportation, at least for the time period it remains in place. TPS is a much-needed bridge for people seeking asylum, as that process will likely take years.

The people who need assistance today are strong, brave, intelligent, and resilient. Many said that the journey here was the hardest thing they have ever done. With the arms of the established Black Mauritanian community around them, they already feel less scared. They are eager to get settled in the US and feel useful. They will be wonderful neighbors, friends, and coworkers when they find their footing. And, they will be helping others in no time, too.