Letter No. 30: Immigration reform now! (36101)

Dear Mr. President,

This week, I asked several West Indian-born nationals here in the U.S. for their thoughts on what should comprise a comprehensive immigration bill –if they were a lawmaker.

Not surprisingly, the one factor that stood out on their list was a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million or so who are undocumented. There was no wavering. One hundred percent of those I talked to listed this as the top characteristic of any bill they would write or would like to see. All –and many of them are voters–agree that this needs to be ww been done.

Jamaican-born immigrant advocate Irwine Clare was adamant. “The objective for me is a path to legalization/citizenship for all undocumented persons who are living in the U.S. as of the cut-off date established–hopefully on the date the law is passed and signed by the president,” Clare said.

Chuck Mohan, a Guyanese-born advocate, also agreed but wanted more for his fellow immigrants. “A path to citizenship should be no more than the time that green card holders have to wait–five years–and if they get married to a citizen, three years,” he said, referring to the issue that is still up in the air regarding how long the undocumented may have to wait to become a green card holder.

Yasmin Bailey was a little bit more lenient: “A 10-year maximum pathway to citizenship for undocumented with penalties tied to work opportunities or community service in lieu of fines,” is what her bill would read if she had the power.

Sadly, they don’t! These immigrants are forced to sit on the sidelines while the lives of relatives and friends, several of whom are undocumented because of backlogs, are made into political football.

“Blame the president and the Congress,” said Leroy Nelson. “They are playing politics.”

“President Obama is not pushing hard enough for immigration reform [and] Marco Rubio is playing politics with immigration reform,” said Mohan.

Now Mr. President, it’s time to really prove these immigrants–who are your supporters–wrong. Be bold. Lay out your own bill that includes a specific length of time after which an undocumented migrant can become a citizen, and no, not after the borders are secure.

For as Mohan wisely pointed out: “During Obama’s tenure thus far, there have been more deportations–1.5 million–and even while they are discussing reform, deportations continue.”

Mr. President, we are talking about an overdue promise and millions of lives at stake. Let’s not forget that and not be bullied by a right wing that’s going nowhere in a country where the minority voter is fast becoming the majority voice! Stand firmly for immigration reform that supports a pathway to citizenship not 20 years after the border is secured, but in five to 10!


Felicia Persaud

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