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Proposed cuts to family immigration weigh heavily on Guyanese community in NY


Proposed cuts to family immigration weigh heavily on Guyanese community in NY

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NEW YORK – Proposed cuts to family immigration in the United States are reportedly weighing heavily on the Guyanese community in New York.

Little Guyana – is home to the largest Guyanese community outside of the Snd located in Richmond Hill, Queens, could lose the most from a new US federal effort to cut legal immigration in half.

This stems from plans to limit what are known as family preference visas, which go to the siblings, grandchildren, in-laws or adult children of United States citizens, as well as the spouses and children of legal permanent residents.

“Eight family members of mine just came through family sponsorship on the Fourth of July,” said Richard David, who, if successful in his bid for a seat in New York City Council, would make him New York’s first city councilman of Guyanese descent. He said his grandmother sponsored two adult daughters, who also brought their children.

Of the proposed immigration bill, which was endorsed by President Donald Trump last week, David said, “This could cease or significantly reduce Guyanese migration to the country.”

David’s campaign promises to secure money for resources like immigration lawyers or language assistance for the diverse neighbourhood that includes Little Guyana, according to the Times.

It said the Guyanese community in New York brings in more people through family preference visas than any other immigrant group in the city.

Of the Guyanese in New York City who received legal permanent residence between 2002 and 2011, 60 per cent entered on family preference visas, according to a 2013 report by the Department of City Planning.

Thirty-seven per cent entered as immediate relatives, an uncapped visa category that includes the spouses, parents and minor children of citizens.

Foreign-born Guyanese people make up a tiny share of the United States as a whole – just over 280 000 people in 2015, or 0.09 per cent of the total population – but a hefty share of New York City’s immigrant population, according to the Times.

More than half of the Guyanese population in the United States lives in New York City, city data states, making the Guyanese community the fifth-largest immigrant population in the five boroughs and the second-largest in Queens.

“Their propensity to come to New York City is very high,” said Joseph J. Salvo, chief demographer at New York’s Department of City Planning. “And they are heavily reliant on family preferences – and reliant on categories that, under this proposal, would disappear. There’s no question that they would be affected in a dramatic fashion.”

The bill, sponsored by Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia, seeks to reduce the number of people granted legal permanent residency each year – currently more than one million – by 41 per cent in its first year and 50 per cent by its 10th year, according to its sponsors’ estimates. 

To do that, it proposes narrowing the definition of immediate relatives, removing parents from the list and lowering the age of qualifying children to 18 from 21.

Siblings of citizens, as well as the adult children of citizens or permanent residents, would no longer be eligible for family sponsorship, according to the bill’s sponsors.

They said the total number of family preference visas would be cut to 88 000 a year, a 60 per cent reduction from the current 226 000.

Of New York City’s Guyanese immigrants who became legal permanent residents from 2002 to 2011, 45 per cent were the parents, married children or siblings of citizens, or their spouses or children, according to the city’s data – meaning that, if the proposed bill had been law at the time, nearly half of new Guyanese immigrants to the city would have been ineligible, the Times reported.

“For a community that relies upon tightly knit family units, where multiple generations live together in one house and grandparents often care for grandchildren while parents work, the constriction of family immigration would be especially wrenching,” the Times said.

“In our Guyanese community, nuclear family is not tied down to mother, father, children,” said Deborah Assanah, 56, associate director of the Guyana Cultural Association. “We have like a village of family members who assist with raising the kids.”

The Guyanese community, which includes people of Indian, African, Chinese and indigenous descent, has one of the highest rates of female labour force participation among New York City immigrants, perhaps aided by the availability of extended family to care for young children, Philip Kasinitz, a sociology professor at the City University of New York, told the Times. (CMC)