Blacks underrepresented in immigration debate

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JULIANNE MALVEAUX

 

(NNPA)—The Senate’s Gang of Eight have put together an 844-page monstrosity known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, legislation that President Obama says he “basically approves” of.  The crafters of this essentially unreadable bill was put together by Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Michael Bennett, D-Col., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., John McCain, R-Ariz. and Lindsay Graham, R-S.C..

On its surface, the bill provides much-needed relief to many of the 11 million undocumented people who live in our country. The challenge is that it disadvantages some immigrants, especially African and Caribbean immigrants, while helping others.

Further, the Senators crafting the bill put goodies into the bill that only serve to advantage themselves or their states.  Senator Lindsay Graham wants more visas for the meat packing industry. Senator Charles Schumer provided special provisions for Irish people with a high school diploma (why?), Sen. Marco Rubio, the much touted possible presidential candidate in 2016, asked for more visas for the cruise ship industry, and Sen. Michael Bennett wants more visas for workers in ski resorts.

Meanwhile, the legislation would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program, which allows a visa lottery for countries that have low levels (less than 50,000 people) of immigration to the United States. Many African immigrants come here through this program (Ghana and Nigeria each had 6,000 immigrants through this program in 2011; African immigrants are 36 percent of those receiving diversity visas). Thus, while Senator Schumer pushes for special provisions for Irish immigrants, there is no one on the Senate side pushing for special provisions for African and Caribbean immigrants.

Instead of the Diversity Visa Program, the Senate Bill 744 creates between 120,000 and 200,000 visas on a “merit based” system, which gives highest priority to those who have future employment opportunities. Because employers do not seek out African and Caribbean immigrants for employees (as they seek out Indian and Chinese employees), the merit-based point system is likely to provide fewer opportunities for those from Africa and the Caribbean. Senator Schumer’s special provision for the Irish carries no stipulation that these people be employed, essentially granting them a pass from the merit-based point system.

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