US House passes Clarke’s legislation to protect immigrants

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.
Photo by Jason Speakman

The United States House of Representatives has passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that includes an amendment by Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke with regulates the US Department of Defense’s (DOD) involvement with the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency.

Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, said she, along with Representatives Bennie Thompson, of Missouri, and Kathleen Rice, of New York, offered the amendment as “a clap back to the crisis at our border.”

The amendment prohibits the use of DOD equipment, personnel and facilities to house or construct housing for any foreign nationals who are in custody of ICE.

“There is an emergency at our southern border on the account of our bigoted president who has directed Border Patrol agents to house migrants in dangerous and unsafe conditions,” said Clarke, who represents the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.

“We must not allow the Department of Defense to play a role in the dehumanization of our migrant community,” she added, stating “that is why I included my amendment in the NDAA.”

The NDAA also prevents, among other things, the use of money for a border wall; prohibits federal funds from being used for any military action against Iran without Congressional authorization; prohibits new transfers into the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba; and restricts US assistance of Saudi campaign in Yemen.

“New York’s 9th Congressional District is bustling with people from around our globe. I will never stop fighting for immigrants to ensure they are treated humanely and are respected as human beings,” Clarke said.

In early June, the US House of Representatives passed the latest version of the DREAM Act, an ambitious expansion of an almost two-decades-long legislative effort that would put millions of young undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants and immigrants with temporary status on a pathway to US citizenship.

With few Republican votes, the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 6), sponsored by Clarke, passed the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 237 to 187.

Clarke said the Dream and Promise Act provides a pathway to citizenship for 2.5 million Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED) recipients, as well as DREAMers.

DREAMers are young undocumented Caribbean and other immigrants who came to the US as children, including those who were protected from deportation by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Since Trump assumed the presidency, he has terminated the DACA program, but US courts have blocked it.

Clarke, who is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Task Force, along with Representatives Roybal-Allard, of California, and Velázquez, of New York, sponsored what Clarke referred to as “this common-sense immigration bill to protect immigrant communities across America.”

Clarke told Caribbean Life that she ensured H.R. 6 includes rights for TPS and DED recipients, “who are often overshadowed or excluded from immigration legislation.”

“Passing the Dream and Promise Act marks a monumental day for more than 2.5 million immigrants in America,” she said. “As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Immigration Task Force, it is my duty to stand up for immigrants. “They are our neighbors and our friends, and are engrained within the fabric of our communities.

“I am proud to champion the rights for Temporary Protected Status recipients, Deferred Enforcement Departure recipients, as well as DREAMers, who call America home, so they will have a pathway to citizenship,” she added.

“Each year immigrants eligible for H.R. 6 pay more than US$17.3 billion in federal and nearly US$9.7 billion in state and local taxes,” Clarke continued. “These same immigrant households amass more than US$75 billion in buying power and pay in excess of US$2.5 billion in mortgages annually.”

She said more than 180,000 Caribbean and other immigrants in New York qualify under this legislation.

Trump said on Friday that ICE will on Sunday conduct nationwide raids to arrest and deport undocumented Caribbean and other migrants.

But Clarke and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, said they were “disgusted” by Trump’s ongoing onslaught on immigrants.

“I am disgusted that Donald Trump has issued ICE raids across 10 of our nation’s largest cities, including New York City, to begin on Sunday,” Clarke said. “These ICE raids are nothing more than a bigoted strategy that terrorizes more than 2,000 immigrants and will cause the separation of even more families.

“Trump’s immigration policies are inhumane and reflect the darkest parts of our history,” she added. This must come to an end.”

Williams, who has held a series of events to distribute “Know Your Right” literature at sites across New York City, in anticipation of potential raids, noted that “Trump wants to dismantle immigrant communities in this country one way or another.”

“Whether by defying the Constitution in his failed attempts to target non-citizens with the census, or defying basic humanity by targeting individuals and families with ICE raids, he is determined to discount, deport and disappear immigrants across the country,” he said.

“As his administration continues its assault on immigrant communities with planned ICE raids in the coming days, those of us with power, with privilege, with a voice, need to stand up for those being attacked,” Williams urged.

“To all immigrants in our city who are under threat, you have allies and advocates who are with you,” he assured. “We won’t be discounted. We won’t disappear. We will keep fighting for you.”

The raids, which were initially scheduled for June, were jettisoned until Sunday.

Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday that there was “nothing to be secret about” Sunday’s sweep, describing it as “a major operation.”

“It starts on Sunday, and they’re (ICE agents) going to take people out, and they’re going to bring them back to their countries,” he said.

“Or they’re going to take criminals out, put them in prison, or put them in prison in the countries they came from,” Trump added.

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