By Nelson A. King
Local members of the US House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, and the New York City Council are among the elected officials who have commended President Barack Obama for addressing the issue of comprehensive immigration reform in his State of the Union Address.
“A policy of comprehensive immigration reform will also support our economy by preventing the exploitation of workers who lack legal status, despite — in some instances, some who have lived in the United States for almost their entire lives,” US. Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, a Brooklyn Democrat of Caribbean heritage, told Caribbean Life.
In his address to the members of Congress Tuesday night, the president urged the elected officials to enact immigration reform that would allow the more than 10 million immigrants living in the country without legal status, to apply for temporary legal status and eventually, U.S. citizenship.
Earlier, in a joint letter with Arizona Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, Clarke — who represents a predominantly Caribbean district, earlier had joined with Arizona Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, urging the president to “respond to the crisis of deportation in the undocumented community” of Caribbean and other immigrants.
“With legal status and an opportunity for citizenship, these workers will finally have the ability to benefit from the rights guaranteed to American laborers, and thus become full participants in our civil society,” they had told the president. “As your administration nears an astounding 2 million deportations, we write again to reiterate our initial request and inquire into additional steps the White House can take to provide relief to the millions of ‘Americans in Waiting’, who live and work among us,” they said.
“There is a great urgency to secure avenues for humanitarian relief for the millions of families that are currently suffering under the fear of detention and deportation and being subject to widespread violations of labor and civil rights,” the letter stated.
Clarke also told Caribbean Life that the continued deportation of Caribbean immigrants who lack legal status has separated many families across the nation.
The congressional representatives said there is consensus in Congress that the current immigration system is “inhumane and unacceptable in addition to being wasteful and ineffective.”
Meanwhile, another local elected official with Caribbean roots, also lauded the president for outlining a “bold, progressive agenda.”
City Councilman Jumaane Williams, of Grenadian heritage — who represents the largely Caribbean 45th Council District in Brooklyn, said the president’s agenda “re-focuses the nation’s attention on the need to end income inequality and to ensure increased opportunities for every American, including those who struggle to find work, those who came to the United States in search of a better life, and those who have not reaped the benefits in an economy that continues to leave many behind.
“Many of the ideas outlined in the speech, from extending unemployment benefits, increasing the minimum wage for those working for federal contractors, to ending wage discrimination against women, would benefit the constituents of the 45th Council District that I represent,” said Williams, chair of New York City Council Committee on Housing and Buildings.