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

Dear Mr. President,

Finally we have a bill! I’m tempted to say “hip, hip, hooray” at letter No. 24! But in the back of my mind, I think it’s way too soon to celebrate anything, given the fact that a crop of undocumented immigrant will remain and the Boston bombers are allegedly immigrants.

But for now, at least the long overdue and talked about bipartisan immigration reform legislation–the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act”–has been introduced in Senate. That’s a big first step toward the silver lining on a very long, dark road for many undocumented immigrants.

At least the positive in this is that those undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States before Dec. 31, 2011, and have no criminal record and do not have three misdemeanor convictions–including for offenses such as reckless driving, trespassing or vandalism–would be eligible for legal residency, according to the bill’s summary.

Of course, this is as long as they cough up to $500 in fines–for having come to the United States illegally–and pay any back taxes. Once that is done, they will receive temporary approval to stay.

Still, those eligible would become registered in a provisional immigrant status that will allow the applicant to travel outside the country and return legally. This is great news for the many who have been living for as long as two decades in the U.S. without ever setting foot outside again.

But here’s where the bill gets complicated: It would prevent undocumented immigrants from reaching full legal resident status until after the government takes steps to keep unauthorized workers from getting jobs in the United States and once borders with at least 30,000 illegal crossings a year are sealed off.

Then after 10 years, as provisional residents, immigrants could become lawful permanent residents by following the same guidelines as immigrants who enter the country legally. That process includes a $1,000 fee.

It’s not perfect by any means, and while we all are optimistic, we hope you will also speak out and intervene for those who are living as undocumented still. And yes, call on your base to constructively engage lawmakers to make this bill a reality and amend the congressional bill to include all undocumented migrants. Those immigrants in the Caribbean and African communities too must be involved in this lobbying process instead of sitting on the sidelines–especially since we already have some on the right threatening to hold back this bill given the Boston terror attack and the alleged involvement of immigrants in it!

The battle has now truly begun. We cannot let this measure die the way it did under President George W. Bush after 9/11. And we also must clean up this bill so it benefits all–not just some immigrants–while kicking the can down the road and creating another crop of millions of undocumented immigrants in years to come. We must act now for real reform that solve this problem once and for all, securing America and ensuring we know who the 11-plus million are!


Felicia Persaud.

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