“One day after the historic overturning of DOMA and Prop 8, another defining moment is upon us and in no less in the same week we received the troublesome decisions on Affirmative Action and Voting Rights. After weeks of deliberation, and years of struggle on immigration reform the Senate voted today on the polarizing and crucial Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act S.744,” Bertha Lewis, President of The Black Institute said. “The roll-call demonstrated support from 14 Republicans and all Democrats for a final vote of 68-32.
“This first attempt at Comprehensive Immigration Reform is a valiant effort. But, it is clear that there is a lot of work ahead. Immigration Reform cannot be comprehensive nor humane or common sense if it is exclusive and unfair. Today’s Immigration bill fails so many in the Black Immigrant population and we must make changes now, as history has taught us that once this bill goes to the house, it is going to get worse not better. Our communities will not thrive under this new compromise because of the DREAM Act provision, backlog and triggers, and the elimination of the Diversity Visa Program. Our focus at The Black Institute is to push for changes that will have a profoundly positive effect on building black immigrant communities. We want the current bill to be revised to include:
A Reworking of the Dream Act.
“The current DREAM act only takes into account immigrants who were brought here as children – under the age of 16 – and who have graduated from a high school in the United States. Many of the children of Caribbean teachers, who arrived in New York between 2001 and 2006 to teach at understaffed schools, were past the age of 16 and had already graduated when they arrived with their families. To make matters worse, they “aged out” (at 21) while their parents were waiting for permanent residence, and could not be sponsored. This leaves these young adults at a standstill—unable to earn a degree or find employment—placing a burden on their families and depriving the economy of their vital participation.
Amendments that Alleviate Economic Burden and Foster Economic Security.
“One of the biggest pitfalls in the current immigration bill is its disregard for low-income undocumented immigrants and its exclusion of those who are not employed because it is impossible for them to attain work. The excessive application fees, running at up to thousands of dollars, are not plausible. Recently, Senator Hirono proposed an amendment (#1317) that would make a huge change to the current legislation. Not only is there a 13-year wait to potentially attain citizenship, but there is also a 13-year wait for working immigrants to have any access to public programs that keep people out of poverty including healthcare, nutrition and monetary assistance. These working immigrants would also have no access to tax credits.
The Safety of the Diversity Visa Program
“The United States makes available 50,000 Diversity Visas (DV) annually to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Immigrants from Africa benefit the most from this program, with over 25% of African immigrants entering the US through the DV program in 2010. The Gang of 8’s proposal would cancel the diversity visa (DV) program, which would have a hugely disproportionate effect on natives of African countries.
The Safety of the DACA Program
“Recently, Representative Steve King of Iowa proposed an amendment to the Homeland Security budget that would cut funding for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). The loss of this safety net would result in the deportation of black immigrant youth and other DREAMers. The practice of prosecutorial discretion, which judges each case by its own unique conditions, would no longer be available to keep them in the country. It would also bar DREAMers from obtaining employment authorization, affecting those youth most economically disadvantaged.
“Cutting funding for this program will trim a government budget for only one or two quarters, but have long-lasting debilitating consequences, from cutting productive labor out of the workforce to stalling or ending the aspirations of many would-be leaders and innovators. Unfortunately, the bill has passed the House, but it is unlikely to pass the Senate or gain favor with the President as support for Comprehensive Immigration Reform strengthens.
A More Pragmatic Approach to Border Security and Path to Citizenship
“The Senate has approved a $46 billion budget to enhance border security, but the proposed five year wait until immigrants can apply for citizenship – and then the projected 13 year path to citizenship itself – is simply ludicrous. There are millions of undocumented immigrants who have been backlogged in the system for years and even decades. Telling them that they must wait decades more to receive all the rights of a naturalized citizen is unacceptable. There must be a compromise.”
More Information About The Black Institute:
The mission of The Black Institute is to shape intellectual discourse and dialogue to impact public policy uniquely from a Black perspective (a perspective which includes all people of color in the United States and throughout the Diaspora). The Black Institute (TBI) is an “Action Tank” – A think tank that takes action. By implementing a three-part strategy: Knowledge (research, data gathering, polling and academic partnerships); Leadership (civic education, training and development); and Community (ground organizing and issue based campaigns), TBI changes the direction of public debate, trains and educates new leadership and develops initiatives to build wealth, build power and deliver justice to Black people and people of color. Our four areas of focus are Economic Fairness, Education, Environmental Justice, and Immigration.