Dear Mr. President,

On Labor Day, Sept. 1, Caribbean immigrants in New York will mark the 47th anniversary of the West Indian American Day Carnival. But most importantly, this year will mark some 414 years since West Indians have been in these United States, first as slaves and then as immigrants.

We Caribbean immigrants did not simply just get off the boat. Yet, as millions will gather to celebrate the West Indian cultural contribution to the city of New York and the U.S., thousands will continue to live below the radar and wonder, when, oh when, will they be able to get their “papers” or immigration relief?

In the West Indian community, getting “papers,” or legal immigration status, in the U.S is of significance to many. Papers means freedom—freedom to travel, work and earn enough to send money back to help relatives in lands left behind.

To many, citizenship is important, but not as important as obtaining a work permit, Social Security card, a driver’s license and the highly prized “green card,” or permanent residency card, which allows one to travel back and forth and live freely as a legal immigrant.

Many pay thousands to unscrupulous attorneys who promise them help in getting these elusive papers once they have arrived here via the “backtrack,” or come in on a visitor’s visa, and decided to stay on for a better life.

Others turn to the church and their pastors for help, which, sadly, in many instances, disappoint these desperate immigrants, sometimes with false hope and at other times with the threat of a call to U.S. Immigration to solicit sexual favors in the case of scared women.

Still others, anxious for a way out of the underground misery of indentured servant-like wages and the inability to visit their homeland—even in the event of the death of a loved one—dole out upwards of $10,000 to pay greedy U.S. citizens, who promise them marriage for a green card. This often leads to abusive marriages and thievery that at times leaves the immigrant worse for the wear, physically, financially, mentally and emotionally.

Meanwhile, still more pay hundreds to secure fraudulent documents, obtained at times through identity theft and the black market, for a chance to simply live a tad free-er and achieve a glimmer of the so-called American Dream. Then there are those who spend years waiting on their “papers to come through”—those waiting upwards of 10 years for employment and family sponsorships to become a reality in the backlogged, low visa system that keeps tens of thousands in red tape and limbo.

Mr. President, Aug. 30, the deadline set to receive recommendations on how you can proceed with executive action that stays within the laws of the United States, is fast approaching. Millions, including in the West Indian American community, are desperate for your help. You are really now the last hope, now that Congress has failed to act.

Won’t you act now and help secure the thousands being spent in the black market for the coffers of the United States? Imagine how much more will be paid in taxes and fees to the U.S. government versus some scam.

The time is now, Mr. President. Let’s get back to work. Immigration help now!


Felicia Persaud

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