“We have to be careful not to accept just anything,” Rep. Steve Horsford (D-NV) told the crowd at an immigration forum last night. “We need to engage all of our communities to make sure that the bill that is proposed and ultimately adopted and sent to the President takes into account all of our communities needs,” he added.
Three members of the Congressional Black Caucus, Reps. Horsford, Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), hosted a forum specifically focused on immigration issues effecting Black immigrants. The immigration concerns of Africans, Caribbeans and Haitians were the focus of the evening as the CBC members attempted to spotlight immigrants that are usually ignored as the current immigration reform debate centers around Latino immigrants showing their growing political power. Last night, the CBC members voiced three main concerns:
1. That the diversity VISA slots needed to be a part of the final immigration reform plan,
2. That the STEM Visa issue be refocused in such a way that American students at historically Black colleges and universities are invested in and focused on before those who may immigrate to the U.S. with high tech skills and,
3. That racial profiling targeting African immigrants be addressed in any final immigration plan.
“Jim Crow may be dead but he has a lot of nieces nephews,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said speaking on the issue of racial profiling an immigration forum at Howard University last night.
Rumors around Capitol Hill are that details of the immigration plan presented by the Senate’s “gang of 8″ may be released today.
“There is no legislation yet. They’re in the process of drafting the legislation… which is why the CBC has stood up our operation at this time — because we’re not at the table. And you know what happens when we’re not at the table. We end up being the lunch. We have stood up and we’re 43 strong in the House of Representatives. Nothing passes without it being run through the CBC. An issue as important as this one — if the CBC does not go for it it does not go,” said New York Rep. Yvette Clarke.
Though the three members and the CBC in general support comprehensive immigration reform, they remain wary about the details. One member pointed out that no one involved in the current negotiations in the gang of eight is of African or Carribbean decent and that the immigrant perspective is narrow. Last week, American Urban Radio Networks White House Correspondent April Ryan interviewed CBC Chair Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and indicated that the Diversity VISA lottery may not be a top White House priority. The GOP controlled House specifically voted against the provision in November.
“African and Carribean immigrants are targeted in ways — disproportionately in our criminal justice system, as have African Americans, that we need to make sure that those criminal justice issue are not used against those individuals in their pursuit towards a pathway to permanent citizenship,” Horsford said.
The members will be focused on the STEM Visa issue as it relates to assisting HBCUs as well in the coming weeks. Whether the 41 voting members of the Congressional Black Caucus will vote against an immigration reform bill that does not contain the provisions they care about is not known.