Barbadians hail president’s immigration overhaul
Barbadians living in the United States have hailed the decision by President Barack Obama to ease the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants, with some saying that it was long in coming and should benefit several Bajans and other Caribbean nationals.
Last week, Obama used his executive authority to enact changes to the US immigration system that would offer temporary legal status to approximately five million immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Consul General of Barbados in New York Dr Donna Hunte-Cox welcomed the move, noting that there were many Caribbean people who contributed to the US becoming a land of opportunity.
“There are some persons who are undocumented who have made contributions . . . And if you are doing that and you are an active participant in the development of the nation and you are making a financial contribution to the development of the nation, I think that getting the opportunity to be legalized is a welcomed opportunity,” she told Barbados TODAY in an interview at her New York office.
Former consul general Jessica Odle-Baril expressed a similar view, stressing that the US was built on the shoulders of immigrants and survives on the labour and taxes of those people.
Although making it clear that she was not promoting illegal immigration, Odle-Baril said people from Barbados and other Caribbean countries had been contributors to the US economy.
“This country cannot survive without immigrants,” she told Barbados TODAY at the Barbados 48th Anniversary Of Independence Extravaganza at the George W. Wingate High School in Brooklyn over the weekend.
“I believe the President spoke in some measure about . . . incorporating legally what really is the backbone of the structure of this county . . . Let’s take Brooklyn USA, for instance. We have a lot of undocumented immigrants here for reasons outside their own purview and reach – children who would have come at a small age without any cause; their parents came and so here they are.
“So there is room certainly for a review of the immigration policies of the United States and I think as a community we have to be more vocal, armed with the facts as they are and go out and advocate for what is right, in the interest not only of Barbadians in the Diaspora but other Caribbean people in the Diaspora.”
Obama has been criticized by Republicans for the announced measures which include allowing people who are parents of US citizens and legal permanent residents, and who have been in the country for five years, to remain in the country temporarily, with the right to work.
They have accused him of circumventing Congress and bypassing the will of the American people; bestowing a legacy of lawlessness; and imposing “new unfairness on law-abiding immigrants”.
Trevor Massiah, a Barbadian who moved to the United States in 1969, said he appreciated that the President was “putting himself out on a limb” for undocumented immigrants.
“It is difficult when you are a leader and you have to make decisions that people don’t want to make . . . You are going to get some ridicule, but eventually they are going to say ‘you know what, that was the best thing to do’,” he said.
“This country has been built by immigrant labour, by people from all over the Caribbean, from Europe, from Asia and I could go on and on . . . and you have to reward them at some point.”
Brooklyn resident Yvonne Cumberbatch agreed.
“It’s a good thing all around, absolutely. Barbadians came here to work and they worked very hard.”
Helen Walker, a Bajan living in Brooklyn for the past 34 years, added: “This will help other immigrants living in the US.”