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Where are Caribbean 'leaders' on immigration reform?

Felicia Persaud | 11/2/2011, 7:06 p.m.
Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now!

As the debate over immigration reform rages in the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election, Latinos are the only ones keeping up the clamor for those immigrants trapped in the underground of the current immigrant labor system. Other immigrant groups are silent, making it seem to the rest of the country that immigration and Latinos are synonymous.

The silence is especially deafening in the Caribbean immigrant community, where it seems either that Caribbean migrant families are unaffected by deportation or there are no undocumented in our community-fallacies, of course!

In fact, what is happening as the Obama administration ramps up its deportation efforts and continues to boost the number of individuals removed in fiscal year 2011-currently 396,906, the largest number in history-is that more and more families are being ripped apart and the undocumented are going further underground.

Last year alone, some 6,000 Caribbean migrants were deported back to the region. But while Latino singers, celebrities and groups are using every opportunity to speak up about this nightmare, our own celebrities, government officials and the many who call themselves leaders of organizations are silent.

Where is Wycelf Jean on this issue as Haitians continue to be detained and deported? Where are our Hollywood celebrities with Caribbean roots on this issue?

Why is it that Eva Longoria and George Lopez, who were not born in Mexico, care about their Latino brothers and sisters who are struggling in the fields of this country, but our own Caribbean celebs fail to give a damn about the many Caribbean migrants who are the domestics, nannies and health care workers in this country?

Organizations in the Diaspora are many, but where is the real leadership on this issue apart from sporadic focus from some church coalitions and unfunded, passionate groups operating on a shoestring budget?

To make it worse, Caribbean leaders in the region, unlike Latin American heads of state, fail to care about their populations' struggles with this issue. While Latin American leaders use every meeting with the United States government to slam its policies that affect their people, Caribbean leaders are only too happy to pose for photos. They refuse to touch the issue, not wanting to rock the mighty boat that is the United States.

And while we sit back silently and hope that somehow the Latino push will result in help for us in the Caribbean community, the pain of many of our own is becoming more unbearable.

Many cry silent tears because they cannot leave the country and return, even though their ailing mother or father or other close relative has passed on.

Others have to struggle to figure out a way to make ends meet because the breadwinner of the family has been picked up, detained and is facing deportation or has already been deported by Barack Obama's ICE men.

Still more in our bright, young population are forced to face a life of hopelessness because they have no green card to allow them to graduate college and contribute to the economy as many immigrants have done before and continue to do.

It is time for the Caribbean immigrant community of celebrities, organization heads, pastors and government officials to join arms and speak up for the voiceless within their own ranks. It's time to let the Obama administration know immigration reform is needed now-not just for Latinos but for all immigrants, including Caribbean migrants.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.