Calls for justice for a Black immigrant

immigrant

In an article titled “A Clarion Call for Racial Justice Reaches the Highest Level,” Rev. Jesse Jackson brought to light “the story of an immigrant, an internationally praised economist, and a whistleblower that exposed a $16 billion fraud against American taxpayers all wrapped in one person.” 

The immigrant is Dr. Yonas Biru, an Ethiopian national, who’s waited for justice for a very long time. 

Various supporters 

Dr. Biru has become a national hero for a broad swath of people, but he remains a victim of what one conservative supporter called a “legalized racial discrimination case.” Rev. Jackson presented the story as an “epitome of the most dehumanizing issue of race and intelligence.” 

Dr. Biru was a deputy global manager at the World Bank. He was praised for “managing one of the most critical programs the World Bank has ever managed,” and for leading research endeavors that produced “legacy-setting methodological innovations.” 

His performance record raised a red flag with some senior executives who realized his high rating would qualify him to become global manager. When he applied for the position, they wrote his performance rating had the unintended consequence of “feeding into his megalomaniacal view of his performance and the resultant sense of entitlement to the position.” 

Evaluation rewritten 

A 73-page report by Sen. Chris Van Hollen revealed that Dr. Biru’s record was “retroactively downgraded” to inaccurately reflect his actual performance record, Culprits deemed the record “too good to be true for a Black man.”

Every project that was deemed “legacy-setting,” which he was credited for “initiating, managing and delivering,” was retroactively retracted. His deputy global manager title and role was denied under oath. A brazen criminal act involved redacting his title and leadership role from the Bank’s publications and websites, crediting his accomplishments to White managers. 

Dr. Biru also happened to be a whistleblower after he exposed his superiors, who fabricated fraudulent economic data to make Africa and Asia look poorer than they were. 

With a feigned report that claimed, “The Developing World Is Poorer Than We Thought,” the bank portrayed the two continents as paupers in desperate need of international aid. They used the fabricated data to siphon off $16 billion from American taxpayers. 

GOP support 

Dr. Biru’s whistleblower case bought him prime real estate in the conservative orbit. The first person who demanded “to hold the World Bank accountable” was Dr. Ben Carson! Subsequently, a group of 32 conservative organizations wrote a letter to the current president, pleading with him  to ensure “Biru is fully redressed.” 

Several Republicans such as Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, asked the Trump administration to intervene with a sense of urgency. He wrote an op-ed in the Washington Examiner which led World Bank President David Malpass to agree to restore Dr. Biru’s official record. His chief of staff wrote to Dr. Biru’s advocates, promising to redress the injustice.

Sadly, someone stopped the process in its tracks. No action has been taken to date. Others whose interventions have borne no fruit include 26 U.S. legislators, the Departments of Treasury and State, the current dean of the World Bank’s board and two former board members. 

Recently, 20 African American religious leaders pleaded with President Trump to intervene in the interest of “justice and humanity.” With his record on immigrants, the question is: Will he respond and how?


Dr. E. Faye Williams is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. Contact her via www.nationalcongressbw.org.

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