President Barack Obama has hinted that he may accept a deal offering undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants legal status rather than full citizenship.
“If the speaker (of the House of Representatives) proposes something that says right away: Folks aren’t being deported, families aren’t being separated, we’re able to attract top young students to provide the skills or start businesses here and then there’s a regular process of citizenship, I’m not sure how wide the divide ends up being,” said Obama in a CNN interview on Friday.
“What I’m encouraged by is the fact that Mr. Boehner and others seem to recognize our country will be stronger if we are able to resolve this issue in a way where, you know, kids, for example, who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are Americans but don’t have the right papers are not being punished,” he added.
“The question is, is there more that we can do in this legislation that gets both Democratic and Republican support, but solves these broader problems, including strengthening borders and making sure that we have a legal immigration system that works better than it currently does,” he continued.
“I think the principle that we don’t want two classes of people in America is a principle that a lot of people agree with, not just me and not just Democrats,” he said.
Obama said that under his immigration reform plan, illegal Caribbean and other immigrants would still have to go through “a very long process of earning citizenship” by learning English, paying back taxes and going “to the back of the line.”
Late last week, Speaker John A. Boehner and other House Republicans released a statement on the immigration overhaul that would not include the pathway to citizenship but would regularize the status of illegal Caribbean and other immigrants.
During his State of the Union address, Obama urged Congress to enact immigration reform that will allow the more than 10 million immigrants without legal status, including Caribbean nationals, to apply for temporary legal status and, eventually, United States citizenship.
His address was welcomed by Rep.Yvette D. Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat of Jamaican parentage, who had written to the president on several occasions, urging him to suspend deportation of Caribbean immigrants.
“A policy of comprehensive immigration reform will also support our economy by preventing the exploitation of workers who lack legal status despite, in some instances, living in the United States for almost their entire lives,” Clarke, who represents the 9th Congressional District, told Caribbean Life.
“With legal status and an opportunity for citizenship, these workers will finally have the ability to benefit from the rights guaranteed to American laborers, and thus become full participants in our civil society,” she added.
Ahead of his State of the Union address, Clarke had again written to the president Obama to stop deporting Caribbean and other immigrants.
In a joint letter with Arizona Congressman RaÃºl M. Grijalva, Clarke, appealed to the president to “respond to the crisis of deportation in the undocumented community”.
“As your administration nears an astounding 2 million deportations, we write again to reiterate our initial request and inquire into additional steps the White House can take to provide relief to the millions of ‘Americans in Waiting’ , who live and work among us,” they said.
“There is a great urgency to secure avenues for humanitarian relief for the millions of families that are currently suffering under the fear of detention and deportation and being subject to widespread violations of labor and civil rights,” they added. “Embracing administrative solutions to provide categorical relief from deportation is critical to alleviate suffering today.”
Clarke also told Caribbean Life that the continued deportation of Caribbean immigrants who lack legal status has separated many families across the nation.
“This policy must end,” she stressed, adding that, with Congress currently debating immigration reform, “the practice of continued deportation risks the very men and women who will have the ability to apply for permanent legal status and citizenship under a new system of immigration.”
The congressional representatives said there is consensus in Congress that the current immigration system is “inhumane and unacceptable in addition to being wasteful and ineffective.”