News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 15, 2013: Dear Mr. President,
This week, we lost an uncle of mine – someone who was caught up in the backlog of immigration application processing and was essentially counted as part of the 11 million plus undocumented population living here the United States.
He unfortunately died suddenly on Feb. 12th – making the application now moot! We will never know if the stress and toll from years of waiting in limbo for his “papers” finally caused his heart to snap. But what is clear, is that there are many, many more like him across this country that keep on waiting and hoping in line; yet can’t seem to get a break!
Advocates agree that if the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement agency would clear the backlog in processing, then many of the 11 million will no longer be undocumented or even have to be placed on a pathway to legalization! They already are!
So yes, why we heard you loud and clear on Tuesday night, echoing the right wing argument about securing the borders first and about immigrants being forced to “get in line, pay fines and back taxes,” what is unsaid is that there are immigrants who are already in line. Many are already paying taxes that now benefit native-born Americans; many have paid high application and processing fees and are now being punished by years of seemingly endless and stressful waiting.
This is also the story of several dozens of professionally trained Caribbean-born school teachers, who were recruited by the New York City Board of Education in 2001 in their homelands. The teachers were told that they would be given green cards if they moved to the U.S. to teach in NYC public schools. They were told if they followed the rules – earned a master’s degree, met the US certification, and really worked hard, they would benefit from employment sponsorship which would land them and their families, legal permanent residency in the United States.
So these teachers sold everything and moved their families, their spouses and young children, to the U.S. Today, many are still waiting on that elusive green card. Many of their children have now aged out of the system – are over 21 – and as such, no longer qualify for immigration benefits from their parent. This means that they too are now part of the 11 plus million undocumented population in this country!
As Jamaican-born teacher, Yasmin Bailey-Stewart, recently told me: “It has been a horror story!”
Bailey-Stewart’s own son is now undocumented, since he is way past 21 and can no longer benefit from the green card his own mother – now in a friend’s apartment as she is homeless since Hurricane Sandy – is still awaiting on.
“You are made criminal because of the situation you are forced into,” is how she accurately summed it up in a conversation on Feb. 8th.
So Mr. President, are these the people we are telling to get to the back of the line and wait until we secure the borders before they can obtain legal residency and citizenship? Should Yasmin Bailey-Stewart’s son, along with the spouses and children of other teachers who are educating the youth of America, be forced to suffer further, because of a failure of the U.S. immigration system and backlogs and red tape in processing?
Haven’t they suffered enough?
Like David Shirk, an associate professor and director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego, said this week in an Immigration Policy Center briefing: “There are more people who want to come here and more people who want to hire workers who come here than our visa system allows.”
It is time to address this flaw in the system – put the spotlight on this as part of the comprehensive immigration reform push and the BS about securing the borders further before granting legalization to the undocumented will be as moot a point as my dead uncle’s immigration application now is!