Tag Archive | "Immigration Reform"

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Immigrant Rights Leaders Say This Is the Time to Act


Elena Shore, New America Media

A day after the 5th Circuit announced its ruling against the Obama administration’s executive actions on immigration, immigrant rights leaders said now is the time to act.

“We are not going to sit around and wait for a court ruling. We will not let right-wing judges or right-wing states determine what happens to the fate of our communities,” Annette Wong, program manager with Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) told reporters at an ethnic media news briefing organized by New America Media. The roundtable was part of an effort by the statewide coalition Ready California to encourage residents to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

One year ago, President Obama announced two new programs through executive action – an expansion of the DACA program and a new program for parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA. Those programs remain on hold following Monday’s court ruling, the latest decision following a lawsuit brought by 26 Republican-led states against the Obama administration.

The Obama administration is expected to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court in the next few weeks. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it will likely announce a decision in June.

But while those two programs remain on hold, immigrant rights advocates said there are steps that families can take now to secure their future.

“It doesn’t matter what status someone has; there are actions they can take,” said Juan Ortiz, staff attorney with the International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA).

U.S. citizens can register to vote; eligible green card holders can apply for citizenship. Undocumented California residents can apply for a driver’s license under AB 60, noted Ortiz.

Next May, undocumented children in California will be able to access full-scope Medi-Cal. California parents can start enrolling their kids now in Restricted Medi-Cal (sometimes called Emergency Medi-Cal), regardless of their immigration status.

Parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents can start preparing their documents so they will be ready when DAPA goes into effect.

And, most importantly, people can still apply for the original DACA program that was announced in 2012.

It’s important to understand that Monday’s ruling does not affect DACA, noted Sally Kinoshita, deputy director of Immigrant Legal Resource Center. That program remains in effect and continues to help undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children get work permits, social security numbers and a temporary reprieve from deportation.

Ortiz advised families to go to a trusted community based organization for an immigration check-up to see what they might qualify for. In fact, he said, almost 15 percent of people who apply for DACA end up qualifying for something else, like a U-Visa (granted to victims of crimes) or a T-Visa (granted to trafficking victims).

Meanwhile, several DACA recipients speaking at the briefing encouraged their community members to apply for the program so they could access all of its benefits – not only a social security number, a work permit and a reprieve from deportation, but also the stability and security to stand up and advocate for the rights of others in their communities.

For Mexican American DACA recipient Luis Avalos, getting DACA was “ a shining light in a dark tunnel of uncertainty,” allowing him to work legally and stop being afraid of deportation.

Avalos, 22, is now the chair of the San Francisco Youth Commission and advises the mayor and board of supervisors on issues of concern to young people. In order to be appointed to the commission, Avalos needed a social security number.

“I wouldn’t be able to be part of the San Francisco Youth Commission without DACA,” he said.

For Hong Mei Pang, a community organizer with ASPIRE, getting DACA was “a pivotal moment” in her life.

Pang, who came to the United States from Singapore 12 years ago, said before DACA was announced in 2012, she was “working three jobs under the table in abusive, exploitative conditions.” DACA allowed her to get work authorization and step out of the shadows.

Today she advocates against deportations that continue to separate families. “Being able to participate in community organizing,” she said, “means we are able to hold each other up.”

Meanwhile, for Brian Cheong, DACA might have saved his life.

Cheong, who moved here from South Korea 12 years ago, was the leader of his high school’s marching unit, graduated at the top of the class, and was awarded the Outstanding Student Award, given to one graduating senior each year.

When he went to college, he said, “that’s when my life turned a little downward.”

As an undocumented immigrant, he was forced to pay out-of-state tuition. In order to pay out-of-state tuition, he had to get a job. But because he was undocumented, he didn’t have a permit to work legally.

“On top of that,” he said, “the fear of deportation followed me everywhere I went. You never know if when you’re sleeping or working if people are going to come and capture you.”

“I started to question my life,” he said, “and whether it was worth it to continue.”

When DACA was launched in 2012, Cheong said there was never any question that he would apply for it. Getting DACA allowed him to work legally and have a secure source of income for tuition, removed the fear of deportation, helped him regain confidence in life, and allowed him to feel stable and secure for the first time in a long time.

“I’m the type of person that likes to plan ahead, and I couldn’t do that before DACA,” Cheong explained.

Today, Cheong is in a military program called MAVNI, a special program that could allow DACA recipients with certain skills to gain something that they otherwise would not be able to access – a path to citizenship. Cheong plans to eventually petition for his parents and family, who are currently left out of immigration reform.

To other young people who are living without legal status, Cheong had a simple message: “You are not alone.”

“Get up, speak up, advocate and educate,” he said, “not just for DAPA [Deferred Action for Parents of Americans] but for CIR [comprehensive immigration reform] as well.”
 

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It Takes a Village to Gain Citizenship


Last month, after over a decade living undocumented in the United States, I became a citizen. As I watched my family waving and cheering during the ceremony, I was overcome with a strange rush of emotions.

I felt joy to finally reach this milestone. But it was also a surreal moment.

For the vast majority of undocumented people, including many of my loved ones, there simply is no “line” to get into for legal status. And even in the small number of cases like mine where a series of lucky chances does open a path, you can’t walk it alone.

I never would have reached this point without the support of a strong network of community organizations and leaders.

As I hugged my baby daughter and my family after the ceremony, I kept thinking that my work for a better society needs to continue. I am currently an organizer for the California Immigrant Policy Center, where I focus on building bridges with amazing grassroots coalitions across the state. I hope when my daughter is my age, she will see a more inclusive future.

The fight for immigrant rights has many facets, from ending deportations to ensuring immigrants’ full inclusion in our communities. One small step, that could have big benefits, is expanding the circle of community-led education and outreach to help immigrants seize new opportunities.

Through a state budget proposal called “One California,” we can do just that. This comes at a crucial time. After years of organizing, a door to temporary relief for some undocumented Californians like my parents will eventually open through new deferred action programs. Meanwhile, another two-and-a-half million Californians are eligible to apply for citizenship, but face many obstacles.

One California would dedicate $20 million to support community-based outreach, education, and application help for both citizenship and deportation relief. The measure is gaining significant support, with hundreds of immigrants slated to gather in Sacramento next Monday for the 19th annual Immigrant Day. One California is one of four key priorities for the day, which will see some 500 immigrants mobilize for a rally and visits to their legislators.

While other states continue down an anti-immigrant path, my family’s story shows why California must double down on its commitment to immigrant inclusion.

We arrived in the U.S. with tourist visas in 1999. While my mom’s U.S. citizen sister filed a petition for us nearly 15 years ago, it’s trapped in a massive backlog. When our tourist visas expired, we became undocumented.

We started growing roots in our new community, but it has been far from a smooth journey. From having difficulties finding jobs, paying college tuition without financial aid, dealing with the emotional and economic impact of my brother and cousin’s deportation, we have endured tremendous hardship and heartbreak.

We overcame many of these hardships thanks to the support of community organizations which provided us with resources like information on health services and food supplies- and the hope that things would eventually improve.

I found refuge in a growing field of undocumented youth activists sprouting on campuses and community spaces across the nation. Working and living with other undocumented people reminded me I was not alone in this struggle.

And I got lucky. Because my U.S. citizen partner and I got married — and because, under convoluted immigration rules, I had come on a visa — the door to Legal Permanent Residency finally opened for me in the summer of 2011. I still remember the moment that my green card came in the mail. Relief ran through my body. But my thoughts turned immediately to my family and peers, still undocumented. Their support helped me reach this status.

Three years later, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles helped me fill out my citizenship application through their citizenship services program. Now, I am now one of nearly five million naturalized citizens living in California.

The benefits that come with citizenship are significant, with earnings increasing between 10 to 14 percent, and increased rates of homeownership and civic participation. But although almost 2.5 million Californians are eligible for citizenship — more than the population of Alameda and San Francisco Counties combined — the lack of support and high cost pose challenges.

The temporary deportation relief programs which immigrants fought to win will also bring strong benefits to the state. While we wait for an expansion of these programs to go into effect, we can already see the benefits of the existing DACA program. From watching my sister — a DACA recipient – -buy her first brand-new car, to friends who are embarking on their professional careers, the program is truly changing people’s lives.

But here again, barriers will stand in the way of folks applying — and many are left out.

As I celebrate this milestone, I am reminded once again I could not have gotten this far alone. It’s taken a village – family, friends, and a strong network of community organizations.

Today, state leaders have a golden opportunity to support these networks and help people like me achieve their goals and dreams.

Carlos Amador is lead organizer of the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), a statewide organization dedicated to advancing inclusive policies that build a prosperous future for all Californians.

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The Latino Political House is Divided On Immigration


Those concerned with immigration reform, deportations, family separations, and unaccompanied minors surrendering at the southern border, are caught in a transfixed credibility debate about President Obama’s announcement to delay any decision to exercise executive action of administrative relief for the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants currently in the country.

After committing publicly at a White House press conference to make a decision by the end of the summer, Obama announced in early September that he would wait until after the midterm elections to decide what action to take. There is nothing conclusive indicating that any relief granted would be sweeping, bold, and inclusive – in any case. Everything about Obama’s trajectory tells us that it would be cautious, limited, and conflictive.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionImmigrant rights activists have harshly criticized the president for one more broken promise. Republicans have denounced him as an opportunist for delaying his decision on electoral grounds and being an imperial executive usurping the legislative role of congress. Vulnerable Democratic Senators in tight competitive races and the Democratic Party leadership, fearful of a white voter backlash, gave off a big sigh of relief. And, administration insider and outsider apologists immediately lined up to defend their patron.

Sadly, Dolores Huerta is only the latest to try and pull Obama’s chestnuts out of the fire with her recent quote from a VOXXI.COM interview, “We have to look at the big picture and don’t get caught up in saying we want it now.” “…we are a community that can wait.” And, “we have to have faith in our president…” How ironic that she expresses no anger at the 70,000 to 100,000 more deportations Obama’s delay will provoke. Multi-millionaire Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of HUD under President Clinton, has repeatedly railed against immigrant advocates for demanding of the president “not one more deportation.” Disgraced and separated vice president of the Service Employees International Union, Eliseo Medina, has probably been the most protective of Obama at every turn. And, Cecilia Muñoz, Director of Domestic Policy Council, and Assistant to President Obama, has been the White House’s pit-bull in silencing critics of the deportation machine.

On the whole, Obama’s Latino defenders all have a financial stake in his regime. They are all recipients of largesse either from the administration directly or through his party or allied private foundations. They belong to the corrupt patronage system and have gladly accepted their proverbial role as house peons who run to save the master’s burning house faster than the master himself. The most immoral observation about their behavior is the lack of transparency about their personal moneyed interests and positions as they implicitly defend massive deportations of historic dimension.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus for its part was incensed at its junior role in the jockeying for the president’s attention and shunted aside in deference to the conservative Democratic Senators. Almost two weeks to the day it finally issued a letter to the president calling on him to comply with his new promise, but refused to hold him to a date certain, and omitted to articulate any possible consequences for not acting before the year’s end. Muñoz met with the members prior to the letter’s release in an effort to placate them and caution against any overreach in their demands on her boss. Caucus members are feeling the heat from the streets by immigrant organizations in their respective districts and are deathly fearful of a lower than normal voter turnout for the elections.

There is a growing movement towards political independence away from both Democrats and Republicans, especially among younger voters and advocates. This is positive outcome of the controversy.

The demand for executive action by the president was not the product of mainstream funded groups, but of independent grassroots base organizations fed up with the legislative impositions emanating out of Washington D.C. Executive action became a necessity due to the impossibility of passing fair and humane immigration reform in the face of two million deportations and family separations, and 700,000 American minors exiled in Mexico with their deported Mexican parents. S.744, the bipartisan “comprehensive immigration reform” passed by the Senate last year, was nothing but a sop to big business and border enforcement xenophobes, and was light on equitable legalization for immigrants.

The National Coordinating Committee for Fair and Humane Immigration Reform 2014, in alignment with a growing independent movement of DREAMer and migrant-led organizations, advocates for immediate administrative relief and not waiting until after the midterms, unless the president suspends deportations for the duration of the delay. Migrant families should not pay the horribly high price for the party’s election anxieties. The relief must be sweeping and bold, and include all migrants contributing to the economic recovery of the country.

Absent such action, we recommend that Latino voters not support any Democratic or Republican candidate in the midterms that does not support an immediate end to deportations and relief, particularly in the five to nine toss-up Senate races of most concern to Democratic Party leaders. It is time to register as independent, and those already registered to re-register accordingly, forge an independent political electorate among Latino communities nationally, and make both parties work for our vote by every day addressing our problematic needs and interests as the largest non-white and fastest growing constituency in America.

We stand on the side of the millions of deportees and their families, and the millions more who still hold out hope for presidential action. Let the apologists be defined on the side of the deportation apparatus, while migrants judge their role in history. September 22, 2014.

The National Coordinating Committee 2014 for Fair and Humane Immigration Reform is an independent binational network of migrant worker and family grassroots organizations and coalitions that struggle for immigration reform according to the needs of our families in California, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, New York, Georgia, Florida and Mexico.

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La Opinion: Immigrants in State of ‘Hoplessness and Desperation’


La Opinión, First Person

On May 1, Latino communities celebrate Immigrant Workers’ Day. As years went by, that day became a time to call for immigration reform and respect for undocumented workers—all this taking into account that the U.S. celebrates its Labor Day in September.

We still remember demonstrations by millions of people in May 2006. At that point, H.R. 4437, a dismal bill sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, threatened to criminalize remaining in the country without documentation and giving any help to the undocumented, like for example a car ride.

immigration_GOP-shutdownThat bill was defeated. Marches back then showed Americans the real face of immigrants. Entire families, some pushing their children in strollers, were completely different from the image of the dangerous criminal being depicted in the House of Representatives.

May 1, 2014 finds the immigrant community in a state of hopelessness and desperation. The only realities behind the rhetoric are that the Democratic administration—from which it expected a fair reform—has deported the largest number of people who posed no danger. Meanwhile, many Republicans abhor the idea of legalization for undocumented workers.

The desperation of an unsustainable situation has led to many forceful measures, from hunger strikes to outright defiance against border authorities by youths and parents trying to re-enter the country to be with their loved ones.

The feeling on this May 1 is one of frustration, being so close to reform—after the Senate approved it—and yet so far away from it because of the stubbornness that has rejected reform in the House of Representatives.

The road traveled has been long. However, we cannot give up, because the cause of comprehensive immigration reform is fair for workers and necessary for the economy.

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Let’s Stick to the Facts About Immigrants, the New Builders of America


By Ann-Marie Adams

Connecticut has a significant number of foreign-born residents. So perhaps it’s time to create a Commission on Immigrant Affairs — not a “clearing house” as a former politician has been advocating around town. That new organization got off to a bad start when he and his colleagues forgot to invite certain immigrants to a conversation they “kick-started” in October.

Immigrants don’t need more encumbrances or gatekeepers like those to navigate. They need a clear path to innovate and build. This new commission would be crucial to improve and promote economic development, education, health and the political well being of the new Americans with entrepreneurial spirit. The commission, like the Mayors’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs in Philadelphia, would help clear their path.

Consider this: Of the state’s 3.6 million residents, an estimated 478, 323 are foreign-born. The Nutmeg State has a slightly higher percentage of immigrants, 13.4 percent versus 13 percent, than nation as a whole. In the Greater Hartford area, 78.5 percent of immigrants are skilled, and 30 percent have college or graduate degrees, according to state data.

Dr_AnnMarie_AdamsMoreover, the Migration Policy Institute data show that Connecticut has the highest proportion, 49.4 percent, of foreign-born residents who are citizens. Immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean comprise the largest share of the state’s foreign-born population. The country of origin with the largest percentage of the immigrant population in Connecticut is Jamaica. Of the state’s total immigrant population in 2011, more than 7 percent were born in Jamaica, 6.6 percent in India and 5.9 percent in Poland.

the-hartford-guardian-OpinionHowever, there has been a shift in the immigration trend from Latin America and the Caribbean origins to Europe and Asia in the last decade, notably from Italy, Canada, Poland, India and China. The diversity of immigrants in the state can be a boon for Connecticut, still recovering from the Great Recession, which was preceded by two decades of no job growth.

President Barack Obama’s recent call to rebuild America’s ports along the Mississippi River and at New Orleans is, no doubt, a strategy to expand trade with other countries and create jobs. Immigrants provide a wealth of knowledge for anyone looking to enter markets in other parts of the world. And that’s why some states in the US are already welcoming immigrants as a stratagem for revitalizing de-industrialized cities, neglected since the late 1950s.

After all, migration has been used since the dawn of time to develop nations and build economies. Economist John Kenneth Galbraith aptly surmised that migration is an economic engine and the oldest action against poverty.  The US bears witness to that. Immigrants and their children, from Andrew Carnegie to Steve Jobs, founded 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies. Immigrants and their children’s companies employ 550,600 people and generate about $2 billion in revenue. Moreover, immigrants have generated more than a quarter of all jobs in high-growth sectors, according to the Immigrant Learning Center.

Connecticut has its own success stories. Here, immigrants founded General Electric, Pitney Bowes, United Technology Corporation and Edible Arrangements. In Hartford, Albany Avenue and Main Street are lined with small businesses founded by Jamaicans and other immigrants – providing valuable tax revenue for a city in which 52 percent of its businesses are nonprofits. Imagine the possibilities if cities and states knew how to create an effective synergy.

The story about immigrants as builders and job creators is remarkable. And despite the facts present, the false narrative about immigrants as a drag on the economy is pervasive and to the contrary. Most immigrants create jobs and provide labor on farms, factories, hospitals, hotels and schools, bringing revenue to financially strapped colleges and depressed cities across America. Perhaps it’s time we start having informed discussions that stick to the facts about immigrants, the new builders of America.

In the meanwhile, Connecticut and the rest of the country must foster an environment that champions difference and innovation. After all, more than half the country supports this common-sense approach to job creation. And this can only continue with immigration reform. According to a Quinnipiac University Poll, 57 percent of voters favor illegal immigrants staying in the U.S. and following a path to citizenship. Another 12 percent say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay but with no path to citizenship, while 26 percent say illegal immigrants should be forced to leave.

While thinking about what to do with illegal immigrants, let’s not lose sight of what can be done to encourage our legal immigrants, who for centuries have been boosting the American economy.

All you have to do is create a commission to help foster their growth and get out of their way.

 Ann-Marie Adams, Ph.D. is the founder of The Hartford Guardian. Follow her on twitter @annmarieadams.

© This article and photo should not be cited, copied, or published elsewhere without written permission from The Hartford Guardian and its publisher, CABC Inc.

 

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Panel Urges African-Americans Participation in Immigration Dialogue


WASHINGTON — The Washington Informer, Margaret Summers writes about a recent panel at the Congressional Black Caucus’s Annual Legislative Conference that focused on immigration reform. Panelists urged native-born blacks and black immigrants to work together and combat racism and discrimination.

Participants in a recent Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference panel discussion on immigration, “Bridging the Gap: A Pan-African Approach to Immigration Reform,” said African-Americans and African and Caribbean immigrants must become more involved in shaping immigration policy reform.

Panelists focused on how the political and social concerns of African-Americans and black immigrants intersect, and how black immigrants and African-Americans together could effectively combat racism that affects them both.

“We know this country has a history of exploiting working people of color,” said Dr. L. Toni Lewis, healthcare chair of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Lewis said that federal immigration reform legislation could benefit native-born and immigrants of color, particularly in employment.

Senate Bill S.744, which the U.S. Senate passed in July, addresses employment discrimination relative to immigrants, said Esther Olavarria, the Cuban-born director of immigration reform on the national security staff, Executive Office for the President. “It’s not a perfect immigration reform bill, but it’s consistent with the President’s views that the majority of undocumented immigrants should be able to obtain work permits and not be exploited. It modernizes the legal immigration system, which hasn’t been changed since the 1990s.” The House, which opposes the bill, is scheduled to consider the bill this fall, said Olavarria.

A number of Jamaican guest workers in the audience spoke exclusively with the Informer about their labor situation as one example of immigrant and black labor exploitation. The Jamaicans are part of a group of more than 150 guest workers from Jamaica represented by the Louisiana-based National Guestworker Alliance in a labor dispute.

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Sergio Garcia: In Defense of the American Dream


By New America Media

Traducción al español

Editor’s Note: Sergio Garcia, the 36-year-old Chico man whose struggle to practice law was the subject of a California Supreme Court hearing earlier this month, inspired a last-minute bill that passed last week in the state legislature. An undocumented immigrant who has wanted to be a lawyer since the age of 10, Garcia writes that the legislation represents the realization of his American dream.

I must have been no older than 10 years old when I dreamt of one day becoming an attorney. That dream has brought me great satisfaction, but also considerable heartache. At that innocent age I was exposed to the horrors of injustice. I saw innocent people being locked up and kept in jail because they were unable to buy their freedom. Justice should never depend on one’s ability to pay for it. It should apply equally to all.

People say it doesn’t cost anything to dream and I am glad it doesn’t because otherwise I would have never been able to afford such a big dream. In 1987 I lived in Mexico with my mother and four younger siblings. Many times we didn’t even have enough money to eat, much less for clothes or shoes. I recall often going to school hungry and embarrassed by my old torn shoes. With all of this poverty you would think I was an unhappy child, but I wasn’t. Money isn’t everything in this world and you don’t miss what you have never had.

It’s hard to believe that 26 years have gone by since the birth of my dream. I no longer struggle for food or shoes. I have grown, but so have my problems. With a great deal of hard work and sacrifice, not only from me but from all of those around me, I managed to realize my dream and finish my education as an attorney. Sadly, given my lack of status I have been prevented from taking the last step towards the achievement of my dream.

Allow me to explain. My father, who is now a U.S. citizen, applied to have my status adjusted, for me to have a green card. This was 19 years ago and I still don’t have one.

the-hartford-guardian-Opinion

Not having a green card has opened a Pandora’s box for me. I have had to fight for my right to be able to one day fight for others. On Sept. 4, 2013, I reached the highest court in the state of California — perhaps something that to most would seem a lofty goal in their law careers, but not to me, since I was there to fight my own case. And given the limited amount of time provided by the court, I was not even able to say a word. I allowed the grown-ups to do the arguing for me: private counsel, the California State Bar attorney and the attorney for our very own state Attorney General.

They fought with courage. However, a fight can only be won if the opposition is open to engage. Here, the court appeared impotent against a federal law that, based on their reaction, they feel ties their hands and prevents them from allowing me to fulfill my dream and issue me a law license. Even though I was discouraged by their response, I did not take it as a total defeat. I took it as an opportunity to help them help me. As soon as I left the courthouse, I reached out to some of my friends in the California legislature. I knew that passing a law that would free the court’s hands to grant me a license was my last hope to fulfill my dream — short of taking my fight to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Luckily, my friends had been paying attention to my plight and were quick to step in, in defense of the American dream. Assemblymember Luis Alejo (D-Salinas) was quick to assemble the troops and encourage them to pass a favorable law quickly.

Soon all members of the Latino Legislative Caucus had heeded the call to action and had picked Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to lead the effort. I was ecstatic at their quick response. It made me feel like someone shared my passion for justice. Those who lead by action and not mere words have always been my heroes and it was refreshing to find so many like-minded people all at once.

Once Gonzalez introduced AB 1024 — the bill that could potentially open the door to my dream, and that of many others — my excitement increased exponentially. With less than a week left in this year’s legislative session, the measure was written, debated and passed by the state legislature. The bill is now headed to the governor’s desk.

Nothing that is truly worthwhile comes without effort or sacrifice, but I am out to prove that the American dream is still out there for the taking.

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Why Blacks Should Support Immigration Reform


By Ann-Marie Adams

(The Root) — Reduced to its very essence, the contention over immigration reform is about numbers, meaning how many immigrants of color will further alter the complexion of America and how they might vote. For that reasonAfrican Americans should care about the outcome of the current debate in Washington, D.C., because it is also about their political survival.

House Speaker John Boehner announced recently that the Republican-led House of Representatives would develop its own immigration reform bill. As it stands, Congress is at an impasse over the issue because House Republicans will likely not approve a bill that allows the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship. The Senate bill, approved earlier this month, includes a path to citizenship, with eventual full voting rights.

So if you have yet to see the writing on the wall from Boehner’s Republicans — keeping millions of new immigrants from voting — let that be a reason to tune in.

immigration reform-2013Here’s another reason: According to the 2011 U.S. census, there are 44 million blacks and 52 million Hispanics. Although white Hispanics are the most visible, many immigrants from Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, Peru and other Latin countries are now self-identifying as black.

Hispanics, Africans and Caribbeans, who have overlapping identities, have all contributed to the “browning” of America, in which half the children entering kindergarten this year are people of color. These immigrants and their first- and second-generation descendants will help make up the racial and ethnic majority by 2050, according to census reports.

Meanwhile, research shows that this new demography and other factors are likely to benefit Democrats. Just this week the Pew Hispanic Center released a study that shows 31 percent of Latinos identify as Democrats and just 4 percent as Republicans. Indeed, the impending immigration bill by House Republicans may very well be about reversing the trend toward an increased Democratic base.

While digesting that possibility, it is important to know that America has always had voluntary black immigrants alongside forced migration of Africans, which made blacks the majority in the South. Besides internal and external pressures, there was the belief in the 1800s that “the increase in Africans would be injurious to the white race.” The Atlantic Slave Trade ended — in part — because of this fear.

Freed blacks continued to migrate across the Atlantic, including John B. Russwurm from Jamaica. In 1827, Russwurm co-founded the first black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal. Prince Hall, another early black immigrant from Barbados, founded the Prince Hall Freemasonry. Additionally, Homer Plessy from Haiti was a catalyst for the 1896 lawsuit Plessy v. Ferguson, which established racial segregation in America. All in all, these men highlight the migratory pattern that continued into the 20th century, most notably after Sen. Edward Kennedy’s 1965 Immigration Act. This act opened up immigration to former colonized countries and ushered in more blacks and other nonwhites to the U.S.

This new wave of immigration, and migration from the South, also gave rise to a black majority in many cities that saw their first black mayors between 1967 and 1990. Of course, much of this nuance is missing from public discourse because historians often conflate “black” with “African American,” erasing geopolitical identities and rendering an incomplete narrative of Africans in America.

Why is this untold history important to know? And how is this relevant to the current immigration debate?

Facing a 13.7 percent unemployment rate, most African Americans falsely believe that the absence of foreigners who “take jobs” will benefit them in the current labor market, perhaps unaware that the black unemployment rate since 1970 has always been twice that of their white counterparts. Very often African Americans have adopted the attitudes of early-19th-century whites who wanted to send Africans back to Africa.

This disunity portends a loss to black political representation across America. Now the Congressional Black Caucus is boasting its largest membership since its formation in 1971. However, many representatives sent to Congress by black-majority districts are beginning to see a demographic shift and might not return to Congress after the next two presidential election cycles.

Furthermore, many African Americans have failed to realize that the current bipartisan immigration reform agenda is seemingly about a move away from blackness. Hispanics — who are viewed as “not quite white” by those who police the boundaries of whiteness — are perhaps collaterals in this ideological warfare. That many African Americans are not interested in “[blacks] here and there,” as one African-American historian puts it, is disturbing and unfortunate. This moment in history — in the wake of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin and its aftermath — is undeniably one of the lowest points for the black community since the civil rights movement. During that era, it was necessary to find commonality with people of different races and ethnicities who powered that social movement.

Perhaps it’s time again to expand the notion of blackness and embrace the hallmark of the civil rights movement: solidarity.

Ann-Marie Adams, Ph.D., is the founder of the Hartford Guardian. Follow her on Twitter.

This REVISED commentary was first published by The Root. Like The Root on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter.

 

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Gov. Malloy: Act Quickly on Immigration


HARTFORD — Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is one of 12 governors who have signed on to a joint letter calling on House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to support common sense and comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Hartford-Gov. Dannel Malloy“We all recognize that immigrants contribute a great deal to our economy and our culture,” the letter reads.  “We should make sure they are fully integrated into the social, civic, and economic fabric of American life and have access to the same opportunities to succeed.”

The letter, signed by governors from Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, calls on the U.S. House of Representatives to ratify legislation that will make important changes to our existing immigration reform system to ensure it reflects both our national security priorities and economic expansion initiatives.

The bill will provide a path to citizenship for undocumented residents that includes paying taxes and penalties.  It makes important adjustments to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program to ensure U.S. farms have access to the workforce they require to stay viable, and it would give graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics the visas they need to not just study at U.S. schools, but remain in the country after graduation and use their education to strengthen U.S. industry and the national economy.

According to the Congressional Budget Office analysis, these measures are expected to decrease the federal deficit by $175 billion within 10 years.

 

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African and Caribbean Immigrants are Often Forgotten in the Debate in Washington.


By Janelle Ross (The Root) — Lowell Hawthorne’s immigrant tale isn’t exactly a secret.

immigration_reform_320In 2003 Black Enterprise magazine named Hawthorne’s Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery and Grill Inc. one of the top 100 black-owned companies in the United States. And when Hawthorne, Golden Krust’s CEO, published a book late last year about his journey from new American to embodiment of the proverbial American dream, newspapers large and small published stories outlining his business struggles and triumphs.

He hasn’t exactly lived in the shadows.

But the same can’t be said for the other 3.5 million immigrants of African or Caribbean descent in the U.S. In many cases these immigrants are invisible, since they aren’t likely to be the first people who come to mind when most Americans think about the conversation going on in Washington, D.C., about immigration reform.

Read More on The Root.com

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