Activists are arguing that President Barack Obama’s executive action announced in November granting deportation relief to millions who have entered the United States illegally does not cover the status of African immigrants and African descendant immigrants from the Caribbean.
“What Congress needs to do is to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” states Marlien Bastien, founder and executive director of Haitian Women of Miami. “Pres. Obama’s executive order is leaving a lot of Haitians out in the cold, who were already in the pipeline to get visas,” Ms. Bastien told The Final Call.
African immigrants who are here illegally are being deported in silence, states Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, chairman of the United African Congress. “We have a lot of work to do to get African immigrants properly counted,” Dr. Nurhussein told The Final Call.
He said no one is paying attention to the problems facing African immigrants in the U.S. while “all of the attention is focused on Latino immigrants”.
The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute in a 2012 report stated that sub-Saharan Africans constitute only three percent (1.1 million) of all immigrants in the U.S. The Pew Hispanic Center estimated in 2007 that there are 200,000 “unauthorized” Black Africans in the U.S. (21 percent of 11 million illegals). “Very few of the legalized under the president’s executive action will be from Africa or the Caribbean,” said Dr. Randy Capps, director of Research for U.S. Programs at MPI.
“I think analysis that the issue of African and Caribbean immigration is on the back-burner,” Dr. Capps admitted during an interview with The Final Call.
Steven Camarota, a research demographer at the Washington-based Center for Immigration Studies agrees that the administration’s immigration policies affect African and Caribbean immigrants disproportionately. African immigrants here illegally tend to fall between the cracks, because many of them are “visa over stayers”; and the Dept. of Homeland Security agencies responsible for rounding them up, do so out of sight of the activist community, Mr. Camarota noted.
“We as a country aren’t saying anything good to illegal immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean; and for Pres. Obama to say, we will give them all refugee status is a slap in the face,” said Archbishop Council Nedd, pastor at the St. Albans Anglican Church in Pine Grove Mills, Pennsylvania.
Joe R. Hicks, president of the Los Angeles-based Community Advocates, Inc., a political think tank, argues that Pres. Obama is “paying off a political debt” to Latinos with his ‘executive order’. “Africans are being sent a subtle message that it pays to just slide across the border; not to fill out the necessary paperwork to be granted admission to the U.S.”
Both men belong to the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives.
“Not only that!” argues Dr. Nurhussein. “Africans migrating here have per capita the highest rate of educational achievement–coming here with bachelor degrees, masters and doctorates.”
“Haitian immigrants lead productive lives; opening businesses and sending their children to college and universities,” states Ms. Bastien. For five years we were organizing around the Haitian Family reunification Parole Program, she said, adding, “The president said before the election he approved of the concept of granting 105,000 Haitians visas under this program; and now they say only 5,000 a year, who will have to pay a fee.”
“So, Haitians continue to be discriminated against, what amount the fee–does that mean deportation if families cannot afford this fee!”
The push is to get immigration reform legislation passed, argues Dr. Ron Daniels. “Our (Pan African Unity Dialogue) demand is for fairness, equitable inclusion for Africans and African descendants–something proactive from [Pres.] Obama such as returning to the Diversity Visa Program which allowed 25,000 continental Africans and Caribbean immigrants every year.”
Dr. Waldaba Stewart, chairman of the board of the Caribbean Resource Center at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, NY, and according to Dr. Daniels, the foremost Black expert on immigration policy reform explained to The Final Call: “There are mechanisms right now if we organize ourselves we can bring in our own immigrants. We need international capability to make this happen.”
He said, that Indian descendants bring in their own people without government bills, etc. “That is one of the things–immigration is the power machine of the future–whoever brings in people of their own kind builds power in the U.S.,” Dr. Stewart said.
We have to sit down and understand where the loopholes are, he added.