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Immigration Demands Heat Up Before Obama Takes Over

The New York Carib News, News Report, Tony Best Posted: Jan 05, 2009

Weeks before President-elect Barack Obama officially takes office in Washington, calls for a comprehensive immigration reform package are getting louder.

And the calls are coming from lawmakers, academics, immigration advocates and newspaper editorials. What they are demanding is early attention to be paid to the immigration issue, which, understandably, was placed on the backburner during the two-year election campaign that culminated in the Obama victory over Senator John McCain on November 4th.

There are myriad claims to Barack Obamas attention and the list will only grow before January 20, said Dr, Jorge G. Castaneda, professor of Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University in Manhattan. But immigration reform, and more immediately, putting an end to the outgoing (Bush) administrations unfortunate and inhuman immigration enforcement policy should be high on the President elects list.

U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, was among the first to urge the incoming Obama Administration to place immigration reform on the list, Immigration reform is very important, he told this paper while attending the annual Caribbean Multi-National Business Conference in St. Marten in November.

Dr. Marco Mason, a political science professor at Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York, and one of the most vocal immigration advocates in Brooklyn, agreed.

Its important that immigration reform which was placed on the back-burner during the presidential campaign, due to obvious political reasons, should now be given immediate attention by the new administration. He too told the Carib News. While we understood the reasons why the immigration question was downplayed during the campaign, it must be elevated to prominence because of the immense impact a reform package can have on the lives of people across the country. After all, with an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now living throughout the land, and with Blacks and Hispanics having given Obama their full backing at the polls it stands to reason why the new President must act promptly to provide a pathway to legalization and eventually to citizenship for these immigrants.

Both Dr. Mason and Prof. Castaneda believe the new administration should strike early now that there is so much goodwill for the President.

The country would support a president who is seen to be dealing with the economic turmoil, the Wall Street meltdown, the foreclosure crisis and the problems in our schools while at the same time tackling the thorny headache of immigration, said Dr. Mason.

Prof. Castaneda, however, put it differently. Immigration reform is the sort of complex and costly project that, as a rule, presidents accomplish only at the peak of their power when their term begins, he wrote in an Op-Ed in a national newspaper. If Mr. Obama decides to postpone immigration reform until later, he runs the risk of no longer possessing the leverage to convince his partys legislators to brace the furies of the extreme right wing.

But even without comprehensive reform, Mr. Obama can make a huge difference in the lives of millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, the Latin American and Caribbean scholar wrote. Since the late 2006, the Bush Administration has been carrying out tough love side of immigration without the generous and open-arms side, which would mean legislation for those in the United States today, and a migrant workers program for those it will need tomorrow.

There should be a plan that would first allow most of the undocumented to become legal residents, the supporters said. The next step would be eligibility for a green card and ultimately citizenship, a process that could take between seven to 10 years.

Greater emphasis is on family re-unification and less on enforcement by the Department of Homeland Security that controls immigration, and an end to the unconscionable nighttime raids conducted by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), arm of the Department of Homeland Security.

Also, there should be amendments to existing laws that would clearly delineate who should be deported as criminal aliens.

The aim would be to give immigrants a second chance in the country, provided they didnt commit murder, rape and other serious criminal offences. The introduction of a worker recruitment drive that brings in immigrants for as long as five years before they are required to return home.An end to the construction of the wall which separates Mexico and the United States but that doesnt stretch along the line with Canada.

Ultimately, there should be steps that would make it easier for families to be reunited.

Prof. Castaneda thinks many of these moves would send a clear and important signal, not simply to the United States but the world. He would say to the rest of the world that on his watch, the United States will not build fences, deport mothers without their children, nor persecute foreigners, he said. He can do all of this with just the stroke of a pen.

Dr. Mason couldnt agree more. President Obama would be telling the world that humanity has returned to U.S. immigration policies, he said.

Immigration Activists Battle Harsh Laws Across U.S.

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