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Letter No. 74: Immigration reform now!

Felicia Persaud | 4/17/2014, 12:09 p.m.
Felicia Persaud

Dear Mr. President,

I just returned from Valencia, Spain, last week and was stunned at two things. First off, being “Americano,” or a holder of a non-EU passport, placed me in an entirely different immigration category upon arrival. Secondly, no one bothered to cater to the fact that neither I nor my colleague spoke Spanish well.

And so we spent most of the time piecing together and trying hard to remember the “poquito” Espanol we had learned in school many years before or running around asking, “Habla ingles?”

To say we felt like outsiders and never truly welcomed is an understatement, but for the first time I felt like how many Latino immigrants must feel—like outsiders—even though America, unlike Spain, has largely become a multilingual nation.

It is why I applauded the “cohones” shown by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Thursday, April 10, as she finally addressed the real elephant in the GOP’s room. Pelosi said what we all know to be true—it is skin color and race that is to be blamed for the GOP House Republican’s refusal to act on comprehensive immigration reform.

“I think race has something to do with the fact that they’re not bringing up an immigration bill. I’ve heard them say to the Irish, ‘If it were just you, this would be easy,’” Pelosi told reporters at her regular weekly press conference.

The statement summed up exactly what many have said for years—if the millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States were not largely Brown and Black, then immigration reform would have been a non-issue long ago.

The fear of the Republican Party’s conservative block of becoming a minority in a nation where Caucasians have always been the majority is palpable. It is little wonder that Rep. Mo Brooks recently had the gall to say that “all hell will break loose” if Rep. Jeff Denham tries to promote his bill, which would allow immigrants who were brought to this country on or before Dec. 31, 2011, and were younger than 15 years old to become legal, permanent residents—the first step toward citizenship—through honorable service in the military.

And it is why former Gov. Jeb Bush has had to defend his “act of love” immigration comments.

If the immigrants he was referring to were all white, then he would have been lauded as a hero among his base. Instead, his push for immigrant families who “crossed the border because they had no other means to work to be able to provide for their family” to be treated with love has made him, like Denham, an outcast in the party of largely old white men.

Mr. President, the legacy of your presidency can be defined by either overseeing the most deportations by a U.S. president ever or an “act of love” through prosecutorial discretion that grants temporary residency to all upstanding undocumented immigrants whose only crime was they came here for a better life.

Which will you choose?

Respectfully,

Felicia Persaud

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