Is Immigration reform important to Blacks and our leaders?
By Roger Caldwell
It is now 2013 and President Obama has made Immigration Reform one of the top priorities in his administration. Many of the Republican lawmakers in the House and the Senate don’t have a large Hispanic population in their districts, so they are against immigration reform. Many believe that immigration reform will die in 2013 because the issue is too complicated.
There is a bipartisan group called the “Gang of Eight which has been working to draft legislature that would help clear the pathway for citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants. President Obama has always been a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, but his hands are tied because there are a thousand ways to start to fix this problem.
Before any progress can be made on correcting the immigration problem, both parties have agreed that the border must be secured. There are some legislators who want a border fence erected that will cost billions of dollars to secure the border. Former U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Ralph Bashman said, “It is against common sense to build a border fence in an attempt to control illegal immigration, arguing that it is one of the dumbest ideas he heard when he was commissioner.”
President Obama has increased the number of border patrols, and illegal border crossings have decreased from a peak of 1 million in 2005, to 350,000 in 2012. But many of the undocumented immigrants enter the country legally, overstay their visas, and become part of the 11 million illegal immigrants. Actually 5 million or half of the undocumented immigrants became illegal when they overstayed their visas.
Initially, I was under the impression that the majority of illegal immigrants were Hispanic, and I thought that this was a Brown community problem. But when I started to do my homework, I found that over 3 million illegal immigrants came from the Caribbean, Northern and sub-Saharan Africa, and a small number from Europe and Canada. The majority of these immigrants are Black, and they are the most educated immigrant group in the country. The Black immigrants have more college education and higher rates of degree attainment than any other immigrant group in the United States.
There is barely any discussion about Black immigration because immigration is associated with the Hispanic community. But immigration is not only a Hispanic problem; it is also a Black problem, and they all speak different languages. All immigrants are discriminated against, and educated Black immigrants are the most unemployed or underemployed group.
Africa American Leaders and the African American community must become engaged in comprehensive immigration reform because we have more things in common with Hispanics and Black immigrants than differences. When immigrants are treated unfairly, the same thing is also happening to the African American community. Immigrants contribute to the economy, and the educated Black immigrants have the greatest opportunity to contribute to the country because they are the most skilled.
In certain political circles the lawmakers are suggesting that it will take 13 years for an immigrant to become an American citizen. Many Republican districts have very little to lose so they will continue to oppose comprehensive immigration reform. The last extensive overhaul of immigration took place in 1986, 27 years ago.
It is time for an overhaul of the immigration system and Black and Brown communities must form a comprehensive immigration coalition. Building a coalition from the ground up will force our lawmakers to get serious about immigration reform. Immigration is a global challenge and the African American community must become involved.
America is a country of immigrants and President Obama is president, because of his immigrant father. Some immigrants got here early, and others got here later, but the greatness in America is in the diversity of its people.