On Saturday, Feb. 26, I attended the funeral of a Black Caribbean immigrant who had spent most of her life in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant.
Now she is a dead undocumented immigrant. Just another Black immigrant that not many will remember because she was not anyone “important” enough in the eyes of the world.
She was not a politician, or a social media influencer with millions of followers. She was not a singer, an actress, a celebrity, or even an author, a lobbyist or a media personality.
She was, however, a real Christian woman, who spent most of her life serving in the Black church and sowing into many, who are today bishops and pastors in the church of God.
She was undoubtedly a woman of faith, but one whose life, since migrating to the U.S. from Jamaica more than two decades ago, was a tough one. It was made tougher by the fact that she was an undocumented immigrant.
Despite her status, she found work as a nurse’s aide, and with her husband, who was also undocumented, got by somehow. She had no kids and once her husband passed––also without getting his “papers”––she was all alone in the world, except for her so-called church family.
Sadly, she died pretty much all alone, poverty stricken and without the much sought-after green card that many immigrants aim for once they arrive in America.
She was robbed blindly by a scam attorney who took her and her then-husband’s hard-earned money, promising to get them both green cards. Sadly, that was a lie and so they gave up hope of ever being legalized.
Not even the so-called church family bothered to help this poor woman, who dedicated her life to the church. At 74, she is no more, and went “home” without ever holding the elusive green card in her hands.
As I sat through her homegoing service and listened to all the glowing tributes from speaker after speaker, including the pastor, I could not help but think of the pain and sorrow this poor woman must have carried daily too.
Baptism by fire, but hoping on, nonetheless, sharing her pain with few.
It is the story of so many immigrants living in the U.S. without documentation. Scared, depressed, in limbo, some without hope, teetering on the economic edge of bare survival. I could not help but reflect too on how many, like this poor Caribbean immigrant woman, have died without ever achieving legal status. Broken and alone!
With war now occurring between Russia and Ukraine, and America and the rest of the world’s attention now focused on this new challenge and the possibility of Ukrainian refugees, the issue of immigration reform for millions in the U.S. is slipping further and further away.
That is the hard truth. Yet, it is desperately needed by so many––within the borders of this country. How many more will die before obtaining a green card, after toiling for decades in the great United States?
How many more must suffer and struggle because of a lack of care and empathy by law makers? These are not “illegal aliens,” but real human beings whose dedication to making the society in which they live better is evident in decades of service to their communities despite the struggle and handicap of having no legal papers.
As someone who was once undocumented because of an immigration system that handicaps millions, I understand the pain and frustration firsthand. It is why I have so much empathy for immigrants who are still caught up in this quandary.
I was lucky. I am today a U.S. citizen. But it has raised my awareness and commitment to lending my voice to the need for immigration reform for those within the U.S. who have contributed to this country for years. Notice I’m not promulgating here people coming across the border and getting refugee status. That is not my concern.
My concern is for the undocumented in the country who have paid their dues. It is time the Biden administration and Congress get back to immigration reform.
VP Kamala Harris should be leading this fight as a product of immigrant parents. Yet, as the so-called czar, we have heard nary a peep from her. Here we are, more than a year into this administration and with Black History Month over, with nothing, as immigrants like Ms. Olivia live and die––undocumented, illegal and scared!
The writer is publisher of NewsAmericasNow