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Letter No. 48: Immigration reform now!

Felicia Persaud | 10/10/2013, 10:46 a.m.
Columnist and Hard Beat Communications executive Felicia J. Persaud was among a handful of Caribbean immigrants rallying for immigration reform on Saturday, Oct. 5 in Brooklyn, N.Y. News Americas Now image

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Felicia Persaud

Dear Mr. President,

On Saturday, Oct. 5, the 100th day anniversary of the passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act in the Senate and five days after the forced government shutdown, I, along with thousands of other New Yorkers, marched over the Brooklyn Bridge after a huge rally at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn to call attention once more to the need for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) now.

It was heartwarming to see thousands from the huge Latino, Asian, African and Arab immigrant communities present, especially because there were only a very few of us from the Caribbean immigrant community. Still, we managed with the rhythms of the cowbell and the drum, thanks to elder Menes De Griot and colleague Valence Williams, to make quite a noise over the bridge—designed by a German immigrant—as I proudly carried a sign that read: “Caribbeans Too Need Immigration Reform.”

Add to that a thumbs up from Chirlane McCray, the wife of New York City mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio, whose roots extend to the Caribbean, and I could not have been prouder to be one of the few to stand up for this cause for the thousands in our community who live in daily fear in the shadows as undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Sure, we know that the shutdown and pending debt ceiling crisis has again taken precedence over immigration reform, but our goal remains to make sure the issue is not pushed completely off the burner. To that end, we thank Democrats in the House for introducing their own CIR bill last week, even amidst the noise and haste in D.C. and the Republican sabotage of the government, especially because the reality is, Mr. President, that the immigration agencies and consuls worldwide are still processing visas, and their employees are not furloughed, thanks to immigrants! That is a fact that has gone largely ignored in the madness of this shutdown.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the agency that processes immigration paperwork, has hardly been impacted at all from the shutdown, as you may know, because unlike some other government agencies, they’re almost entirely self-funded. The fees they charge immigrants cover 95 percent of their budget, according to spokesperson Christopher Bentley. As such, while most government websites are inaccessible or not being updated during the shutdown, the immigration site is still advising people to report for interviews and appointments as scheduled.

The State Department, through its consuls worldwide, continues to process visas, because again, it is the fees of foreigners that fund that service. This, Mr. President, is the main reason for immigration reform. It is an economic boon to this country. Imagine the billions in fees that will come from the paperwork processing of 11-plus million immigrants. The USCIS will not only stay self-funded, but the entire Department of Homeland Security may be able to become fully self-funded too. Which other agency can boast of this right now?

Add to that the increase in real GDP by $700 billion in 2023, or 3.3 percent according to the Executive Office of the President forecast, and the $2 billion per year in tax revenues from undocumented immigrants if they were allowed to become citizens as the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy predicts, and we can see our debt starting to decrease. That’s being fiscally conservative!

So as John Boehner continues his bone-headed shutdown along with the tea party maniacs in the House, make sure any negotiations you entertain include a deal on immigration reform, and yes, Obamacare too.

Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud

The writer is CMO of Hard Beat Communications, which owns the brands NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Invest Caribbean Now.