NEW YORK, USA — A number of undocumented Jamaicans in the United States are putting their hopes on promised immigration reforms by President Barack Obama.
They are part of the estimated three million undocumented aliens in the US for whom comprehensive immigration reform, which Obama has vowed to address in his second term, is of paramount importance.
The matter has generated intense interest within the Jamaican community here, even though to most pundits the term immigration reform refers almost exclusively to immigrants from Latin American countries. This could be attributed to the fact that this group makes up the largest percentage of the undocumented population in the United States and have been more aggressive in lobbying for these reforms.
Patrick Callum who heads G2K New York — a group of young professionals aligned to the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) — expressed hope in a statement shortly after Obama won re-election that the matter would receive the president's "serious and urgent attention".
At the same time, Irwin Clare, who heads Caribbean Immigration Service, and who is also head of the Diaspora Board for the North East United States, said in an interview that other diaspora leaders and himself were already "pushing congressional representatives on the matter".
"We will be watching the matter closely as we recognise how significant it is to our people," said Clare, The initial contact, he said, has already been made with newly elected congressman Hackeem Jefferies, a democrat from Brooklyn, as well as longtime representative Yvette Clarke about the issue.
It will not be the first time that the issue of comprehensive reform of the US immigration system has been debated intensely and attempted as well, raising the hopes of Jamaicans and other undocumented nationals.
Just two years ago, a bill known as the Dream Act, which would have dealt with the matter, failed to pass the US House of Representatives by a narrow margin, mainly because of opposition from Republican lawakers who have traditionally opposed such measure.
Prior to that, attempts by former President George W Bush failed to garner enough support in the US Congress, but there seem to be hopes this time around that legislation dealing with the issue would be passed. This is due to the fact that Republicans who have previously been staunch opponents of such a reform, now seem inclined to support the measure, while president Obama is keen on ensuring that he makes good on a promise he made to a key voting bloc of the Democratic Party but which eluded him during his first term. More than 70 per cent of Latinos and 93 per cent of African Americans supported the president in the November elections.