DREAM Act doesn’t go far enough

“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,” Bertha Lewis, President of The Black Institute said. “Our communities will not thrive under this new compromise because of the DREAM Act provision, backlogs and triggers, and the elimination of the Diversity Visa Program. 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 common sense if it is exclusive and unfair.”

•The DREAM Act provision is a step in the right direction. However, the Bill states that one must enter the U.S. before the age of 16 and have completed high school in the U.S. to qualify for the Dream Act and be put on an expedited pathway to citizenship. This leaves out many Black Immigrant youth dependents who came to the US with their parents after the age of 16 and who finished high school in their home countries before coming to the US. These undocumented individuals, many of whom came to the US legally with their parents and fell out of status, should also be put on an expedited pathway to citizenship.

•This bill proposes a 13-year wait to become a citizen. However, this is after the borders are secured, one of the three triggers imposed in the legislation by Senator Marco Rubio which will take at least five years; hence the path to citizenship will be a minimum of 18 years. This is a multibillion-dollar task even though the White House has consistently argued ‘our borders are more secure than ever.’ This indefinite length of time is unacceptable and far too long especially for those who have been stuck in the backlog system for 10+ years. This is a call for efficiency and an expedient timeline; a heightened effort needs to be made to make the administrative process of our Immigration system just.

•However, what is most alarming is the total elimination 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.

Goals of The Black Institute for the Outcome of Comprehensive Immigration Reform:

•Comprehensive reform of Immigration policy to include protections for recruited immigrant professionals and their children (e,g, an expedited pathway to Green Card status, a special category that includes recruited professionals from non-STEM disciplines, etc.).

•Fulfill the promises of citizenship, education and job opportunity to recruited immigrant professionals and their families, including “aged-out” immigrant children.

•End the criminalization and detention of Black immigrants, and implement safeguards to protect against racial profiling and ensure due process for all immigrants.

•Reunite families torn apart by current Immigration policy by expanding benefits to include extended family, and altering the current DACA guidelines to allow children up to the age of 20 to enter the US.

•Lessen the economic burden caused by current Immigration policy by investing resources and decreasing processing fees.

•Expand the focus of the Immigration reform discourse to include the needs of Black immigrants and their children, who are often marginalized and ignored. This includes amending the language of the DREAM act to include children of immigrant professionals, and allowing the voices of Black immigrants to be heard.

More Information About the DREAMERS:

Over twelve years ago, the New York City Department of Education recruited over 1,000 Caribbean teachers to serve here in the New York City public school system, promising a path to Citizenship to the teachers and their families. Today, most of these men and women still have not received their green cards. Worse yet, many of their children have “aged-out” of their legal Immigration status, as they are no longer dependents under their parents’ visas. Unfortunately, because the parents did not receive green cards by the time the youth reached age 21 they’ve lost their status. Moreover, because of the fact that Caribbean youth graduate high school between the ages of 16 and 17 years of age, many of them either completed their high school education before coming to this country and/or arrived after the age of 16 years and do not qualify for The President’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Due to our inefficient and broken Immigration system, these children have fallen to the wayside – they are, invisible, and completely absent from mainstream discussions of Immigration, Immigration reform, and The Dream Act. They are stuck in limbo, unable to pursue their educational and professional dreams and unable to contribute financially to their families and to society.

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 imploring 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.

More from Around NYC