This Caribbean-Heritage Month, we must urgently pass permanent protections for undocumented New Yorkers 

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Photo by Nelson A. King

In this Caribbean-Heritage Month, let us take the time to reflect on all the social, cultural, and economic contributions many Black and Brown immigrants have brought to this state and country. The U.S. has reaped the benefits from our community members that have migrated from the beautiful and rich cultures of the Caribbean islands, that come here for better opportunities. We have an obligation to honor their history and sacrifice and move towards a humane and dignified immigration reform for all who will come after us.

As the proud daughter of Jamaican immigrants, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Task Force, and founding member of the House Haiti Caucus, I am uniquely familiar with the issue of immigration. I have dedicated much of my life and career to be a fighter for my immigrant neighbors and family members because I know the true power of diversity. Power you can see throughout New York’s 9th congressional district, and our nation.

As we respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers such as myself are responsible for enacting legislation that supports the immigrant community, our essential workforce, and our economy. We cannot simply reverse the previous administration’s policies because the system was broken long before 2016. Today, we need to provide long-term certainty for these immigrants and their families by creating a humane and fair immigration system. This includes improving current racial disparities in immigration, which disproportionately impacts and targets Black immigrants.

Throughout my career in Congress, I have stepped up to defend Black and Haitian immigrants from being targeted for deportation. The previous administration disgracefully degraded the immigrants from Haiti and the greater Caribbean, El Salvador, and African countries without reason or fact. While we have seen a lack of action or urgency to extend protections for many Black immigrants by the current administration, we cannot let up our hope and fight.

This month marks the ninth anniversary of the creation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that is under threat in a Texas federal court. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders also face a similar fate with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling against these immigrants who hope to one day obtain permanent legal status, a solution by Congress is needed more than ever. For nearly three decades, Congress has failed to enact immigration reform that establishes a permanent pathway for Dreamers, TPS recipients, and other undocumented immigrants. The result: millions of immigrants have been unable to reach their full potential as the American Dream they once sought to attain slips farther away from reality.

I co-introduced and passed the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) in the U.S House of Representatives because it’s what’s best for my constituents and the future of our country. Not only is providing Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) recipients with an earned pathway to citizenship the moral and right thing to do, it will benefit our state and national economy as well, helping all Americans succeed.

Today, New York is home to more than 4.3 million immigrants who are taxpayers, entrepreneurs and business owners, and critical members of our workforce. There are nearly two million immigrant essential workers in New York, with York’s 9th congressional district alone boasting nearly 300,000 immigrant residents. Simply put, they are the backbone of Brooklyn’s culture and society.

I am committed, as I have been since the day I took office on city council to now as a member of the House, to find humane solutions for immigration by any method available to me in Congress. New York City, and our entire nation, are looking for lawmakers to listen and act in their best interests, which means enacting permanent Dreamer and TPS protections. I call on my Senate colleagues to not let politics get in the way, and do what most Americans believe to be right, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented people.

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