Obama White Whose to make Life Easier for Undocumented Immigrants
The three West Indians, Marcella Barnes, Jean Baptiste and Mike Gibson have never met but the Jamaican, Haitian and Guyanese, have something in common: they are illegal residents in the United States. But their common link doesn’t end there. Because of their undocumented immigration status they are praying to the Almighty to save them from being separated from their families in the U.S. for an extended period of time, meaning years after returning to their respective birthplaces to pick up their green cards. It’s a nightmare, they insist, to be forced to cool their heels way from spouses and children, all of whom are American citizens.
Now, their prayers are about to be answered. Thanks to the Obama Administration they may be able to achieve their goal while avoiding the trauma spawned by the delays in getting their green cards. The White House, the Department of Homeland Security and the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services have decided to eliminate much of the anxiety and the wait, which can run into years by simplifying the immigration waiver process through administrative changes which don’t require Congressional action. “The goal is to substantially reduce the time that the U.S. citizen is separated from a spouse or child when that separation would yield extra hardship,” asserted Alejandro Mayorkas, head of the U.S. immigration agency.
The Administration is trying to end what is really a Catch-22 nightmare for hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants from around the world, many of them from the Caribbean island-nations and coastal states, who are either the spouses or children of American citizens. Here’s the problem. Under current U.S. law undocumented immigrants who are married to or are the children of American citizens can become green card holders if they satisfy some stringent requirement. But to change their status immigrants must return to their birthplaces to pick up their green cards or permanent residency documents.
The trouble is that living in the U.S. illegally automatically prevents them from returning to the U.S. for at least three years. Sometimes, the waiting period can last as long as a dozen years, despite the fact that they are legally entitled to become green card holders. To short-circuit the hurdle, Trinidadians, Guyanese, Grenadians, Latin Americans, Europeans, Chinese, Japanese and others from around the world, apply for an immigration waiver by proving that a prolonged absence would impose severe hardship on American citizens.
But getting the waiver requires going through an elaborate immigration maze that is often just as frustrating, expensive and lengthy as getting the green card process. That’s why so many immigrants don’t even try to secure the green card, fearing that once out of the country and back home, they wouldn’t be allowed to return any time soon. They often prefer to remain in an undocumented state. Now to eliminate the anxiety, the White House plans to allow them to secure the waiver before they head home for the visa. That would give them the assurance they would be entitled to return to the U.S. almost immediately, “The change would make a substantial difference because the uncertainty about the waiver can be traumatic and in the end you may be stuck back home, unable to contribute to your family’s upkeep in the United States,” said Barnes, not his real name. “What’s the point of going to the trouble to get the waiver when you don’t know if you would be allowed to return to the United States?
The current system is definitely in need of urgent reforms. The risks now are substantial and it is forcing thousands of people from the Caribbean to spend substantial sums of money on fees to immigration attorneys and in many cases people don’t even get the waiver or the green card.” The proposed change is bound to find substantial support among Congressional lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have been pressing successive administrations for at least two years to act and end the hardships caused by the disruption of family life in immigrant households. U.S. Congressional representatives including Gregory Meeks, Democrat of Queens; Harlem Congressman Charles Rangel; Brooklyn’s Yvette Clarke; and New Jersey’s Donald Payne have long been complaining about the bureaucratic hurdles that break up families when a spouse, parent or child is forced to return their home-country.
Several current or former Consuls-General of Caribbean countries such as officials from St. Vincent, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic have also made strong cases for a change in the immigration regulations. Now it’s about to happen. Politics may be driving the White House move. With Republicans and Tea Party members of the House of Representatives and the Senate adamantly opposed to any legislative move to allow the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants to stay in the country, the Democrats in the White have decided to use Presidential administrative power to change things without amending existing laws or introducing new ones. President Obama’s action is bound to garner support from millions of Hispanics, West Indians, Africans and Asians who are demanding comprehensive immigration reform, knowing full well that such effort couldn’t attract majority support in the House.
“Comprehensive immigration reform in 2012 is highly unlikely because of the division in the Congress,” Congresswoman Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican parents, said recently. Joan Pinnock, President of the Jamaican-American Bar association northeast, said essentially the same thing when she told Carib News that reform was desirable and important but was unlikely to be approved in a presidential and congressional election year. “I just don’t see it happening,” Pinnock said.