EDITORIAL: Obama’s gift to Bajan immigrants
This weekend is one of celebrations. For Americans it is Thanksgiving; for Barbadians it is the observance of yet another anniversary of Independence. In each case, it is a time for the citizens to reflect on making their respective countries stronger and better.
A week ago President Barack Obama took a decisive step which would have made Thanksgiving more meaningful to thousands of Barbadians and other Caribbean people living illegally in the United States.
His decision to overhaul his country’s immigration policy will open the doors for many of those undocumented people to regularise their status. This opportunity was afforded millions of others previously. Today the beneficiaries under this planned immigration reform are likely to be primarily Latinos and citizens of developing countries, many of whom have been in the United States for at least a decade and own homes and are making positive contributions to that country.
President Obama had little choice but to act if he was to fulfil a promise made while campaigning for the presidency more than seven years ago. There seemed little possibility of reaching a deal with the Republican-controlled Congress, which stalled on immigration reform in the House of Representatives during the last session. With the GOP now in control of both branches of the legislature, and with strong anti-immigration sentiments already being expressed, a deal appeared unrealistic.
Six years into his presidency, President Obama has acted judiciously on behalf of all those law-abiding undocumented Barbadians and other people seeking to make the United States their home. He has done nothing more than other presidents before him did by exercising their executive authority. Yet, his actions may very well define the last two years of his presidency and may set the tone for the 2016 presidential and congressional elections.
Those shouting from Capitol Hill and the Tea Party activists denouncing Mr Obama need to recognise that the United States has always been a land of immigrants, and even to this day it benefits tremendously from those who have sought to call that country home. The undocumented workers provide cheap, readily available labour. Highly skilled migrants educated and trained in their homeland, sometimes poor developing nations, now joined by entrepreneurs, all make tangible contributions. The truth is that Mr Obama’s proposals do not open the floodgates to each and every undocumented immigrant. Some feel it does not go far enough.
President Obama’s actions will allow those Barbadians living illegally in the States to meaningfully and legally contribute to their new homeland, including by paying their taxes while raising their families without constantly looking over their shoulders.
Mr Obama extends hope and a fair chance to all those who want to pursue that much touted American dream in a country which remains a melting pot of nationalities, races and creeds. Now is the time for them to come out of the shadows.