By: Tony Best
Will President Barack Obama’s immigration initiative which he announced in June turn out to be a life charger for at least a million young people across the country, including hundreds of thousands from the Caribbean?
Yes it can. That’s why we are praying that the undocumented would take full advantage of it. In the absence of a Congressional stamp of approval on the Dream Act, the initiative offers young people a chance to achieve their goal of a sound education that would launch them into successful careers and a better life for themselves and their families.
So, when the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services begins receiving application on August 15th from eligible undocumented immigrants, the agency will, in effect, be opening the door to a new horizon which we believe youths from Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Suriname, Belize, the Bahamas, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, the Dominican Republic, Barbados and their neighbors should take advantage of with gusto.
Admittedly, the President could have done it before but the fact of the matter is that he has taken the plunge and it’s now up to the youths, their parents and or guardians to act accordingly and with alacrity.
It’s understandable why the President he set the eligibility criteria at a relatively high mark. In an election year when he is facing a well-heeled candidate with a large campaign war chest financed by conservative donors dedicated to President’s removal from the White House, any move to open the application process to every illegal resident, regardless of their backgrounds would have been enough to trigger a massive explosion of an anti-immigration volcano. As they stand, the criteria give a green light to the majority of the undocumented who wish to chance their status and to lead productive lives in the only country most of them know.
The eligibility rules are clear. Youths must have been in the U.S. before their 16th birthday; be 30 years or younger; have lived in the U.S. for at least five years; are students in school, have graduated or served in the military; have an unblemished record, meaning they didn’t have any criminal convictions. In addition, they must pay an application fee of $465 and are ready for an interview while being subjected to a background check. That’s reasonable.
Youths should view the insistence of a life free of crime as a lesson that would guide them through the rest of their lives in the U.S. Any deviation from that straight and narrow path would stand would be costly. They can face deportation if they commit crimes and are caught and convicted. The eligible souls and their parents should get it through their heads that there is a heavy price they would for breaking the law. It may be a tough measure to overcome but that’s the way it is.
We trust the initiative turns out to be success story, one that would encourage members of the U.S. House of Representative and the Senate to approve the Dream Act when the new term begins in 2014. The lawmakers owe it to the millions of young people to give them a second chance.
When the immigration agency announced the date for applications Republicans and Tea Party adherents came out of the wood work, denouncing the criteria with familiar complaints.
Take the case of Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the House. He vigorously complained that the conditions would undermine “the rule of law” by providing “lawbreakers an unfair advantage over legal immigrants.” What rubbish. His criticism should serve as a reminder to naturalized American citizens of the barriers they can expect should they contribute to Republican control of Capitol Hill and the White House in the November presidential and Congressional elections. That’s a word to the wise.
But the announcement of the guideline by Washington wasn’t the only thing to which young people and their guardians should pay attention. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo let it be known he was introducing a multi-media and community-based immigration advisory service designed to steer applicants away from the clutches of scammers who are bent on fleecing unsuspecting undocumented immigrants who are seeking to take advantage of the President’s initiative.
The Governor is quite sensibly rightly putting up $600,000 for the outreach program that would provide legal advice and operate a hotline for callers inquiring about the immigration requirements. Past experience has shown that bogus immigration “consultants” seize every opportunity to charge “clients” hefty fees to complete simple forms. They also offer a promise services which they know they can’t provide, such as working with insiders in the immigration agency to get quick approval of applications. It’s a fraud pure and simple.
Yes, the youth will need some advice so they can meet government requirements. But they can get it from neighborhood organizations that are working with the immigration agency to provide help. And that’s where the Governor’s approach makes sense.